New Era 196os199os

A growing public concern over the environment prompted dramatic new Federal action in the late 1960s and early 1970s, much of it motivated by events affecting the Hudson River. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA, PL 91-190) enacted in 1969 forced Federal agencies to write environmental impact statements before proceeding with management decisions deemed to be "significant." The Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1972 (PL 92-500, in subsequent authorizations referred to as the "Clean Water Act"), proclaiming "it is the national goal that the discharge of all pollutants waters into navigable waters be eliminated by 1985," was the most comprehensive water pollution control legislation ever enacted. It was a major transition point from its timid predecessors to the much more comprehensive legislation embodied by the various authorizations of the Clean Water Act that followed. The Act authorized huge Federal expenditures for sewage treatment construction grants, institutionalized a permit program for industrial dischargers (including power plants), required states to make regular evaluations of water quality, required secondary treatment for all municipal wastes, established environmental criteria for dredged material disposal, regulated the filling of wetlands, and provided new direction for water quality standards and criteria with the goal of creating "fishable, swimmable waters."

An avalanche of new programs and organizations cascaded into the environmental management structure at the state and municipal levels (see Table 22.2). The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, and the New York City Department of Environmental Protection were created, and other Federal and state agencies were revamped, all designed to address the new and growing environmental mandates that the public was demanding. In addition, states developed legislation to complement the recently enacted Federal legislation. For example, to provide for the Environmental Impact Statements at the state level-in essence, the NewYork State counterpart to NEPA's similar provisions - the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) took effect inNovember, 1978. The overall management structure that emerged was one of strong Federal controls initially, with gradual delegation of responsibilities to the states over time as the state programs matured.

Legions of environmental managers were now hard at work correcting environmental problems. Some of their successes are chronicled in Chapter 23 of this volume and Steinberg et al. (2004). While much of the day-to-day activities of these managers went unnoticed by the public, some key regulatory actions proved to be lightning rods for environmental activism and public debate. Westway and the Hudson River Power Case, discussed below, are two examples of controversial regulatory proceedings that focused regional and national attention on Hudson River environmental issues.

Prompted by the growing awareness of environmental issues in the Hudson River brought about by the Power Case, Congressman Richard Ottinger, along with several other prominent Democrats in the U.S. Congress, supported legislation in 1966 to create an interstate compact for a Hudson River Scenic Riverway. Not to be outdone by the Democrats and seeking to keep issues under State control, Rockefeller established his own state run entity, the Hudson River Valley Commission (HRVC), and pushed through the Pure Waters Bond Act aimed at cleaning up sewage throughout the state, with an emphasis on the Hudson River. In addition, Rockefeller stalled efforts to negotiate an interstate agreement with New Jersey for many years and the Congressional deadline for ratifying a compact expired in 1974 (Dunwell, 1991).

Rockefeller's HRVC was composed of influential New Yorkers, but had limited powers and was described by Robert Boyle (1979) as a "bad joke." It compiled information about the Hudson's resources and conducted site plan reviews of large projects. Though it did not have the power to stop projects, it could delay them by holding extensive hearings. It was successful in redesigning projects to reduce their scenic impacts and facilitating the creation of new parks like Hudson Highlands State Park (Dunwell, 1991). After a period of time it lost its momentum and local support, and eventually was dissolved.

With vanishing of hope for an interstate compact and the limited authority of the HRVC, the Rockefeller Foundation stepped forward in 1973 and funded a three-year study of environmental problems and institutional issues called the Hudson River Basin Project. This impressive effort, which produced over 4,000 pages of memoranda, working documents, and reports after consulting with approximately 125 people, is synthesized in a two-volume report published in 1979. The need to strengthen environmental management institutions was identified as the most important problem to be tackledin the Hudson River Basin (Richardson and Tauber, 1979). The overall project unfortunately turned out to be a purely academic exercise. It had no official connection to any individual or agency of the executive or legislative branch

Table 22.2. Agencies with management responsibilities

Level

Agency

Responsibilities

Federal

National Oceanic and Atmospheric

- Review and comment on permits

0 0

Post a comment