Posted by Anne LeHuray, April 11, 2013
The working world I inhabit is hard to explain to outsiders. Regulations that govern many aspects of doing business are governed by application of laboratory or theoretical science to the real world. Sometimes figuring out science-based regulation is easy – an exercise in applying well understood physical principles to engineering design to, for example, calculate safe light bulb wattage for a lamp or construct an effective pressure release valve for a water heater. But using science to develop environmental regulation? First, various branches of science had to be invented from scratch or vastly expanded. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was founded in 1970 to focus on protection of the environment. EPA’s website has a “history” section that goes into the the founding of the Agency and major milestones since. The official history talks about Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” and the first Earth Day in April 1970. Official histories gloss over the controversies and political wrangling – the sausage making part – presenting a picture of near harmony and a gauzily pictured timeline of events. In his 2009 book, The Conflict Over Environmental Regulation in the United States: Origins, Outcomes, and Comparisons With the EU and Other Regions, Frank Manheim does a better job of, as they say, contextualizing the making of the environmental regulation. I work in a tiny corner of environmental regulation – a world that’s grown so large that few can grasp the whole. In my corner, government agencies attempt the often impossibly difficult task of translating scientific information into regulations protective of human health and the environment that regulated industries must then implement.
So that’s what I plan to write about – the intersection of science and regulation. My corner of this world is small, but I think there are plenty of interested readers out there. Doubtless as I post on different topics, you, the reader, will learn that I believe the little patch 0f government I work with is ripe for reform, for consolidation of duplicative programs, for privatization of other programs. I also think there are too many pockets within the agencies I deal with that seem infected with an anti-market, anti-business philosophy.
There’s a housekeeping matter to mention. I work with several trade associations. Sometimes I might write about topics or issues directly relevant to the associations I work with. I’ll disclose that, but the opinions here will be my own. No one is paying me to undertake this blogging project.