American Environmental Policy

American Environmental Policy

The Failures of Compliance, Abatement and Mitigation

New Horizons in Environmental Politics series

Daniel Press

More than 40 years after the United States launched bold efforts to curb pollution and waste, American environmental management has stalled. Drawing extensively on recent enviornmental science, engineering, regulatory agency data and trade information, American Environmental Policy explores how environmental management in the US has fallen short of its early promise and reputation. Arguing that policies need to be redesigned for the 21st century, this book offers examples and principles of effective environmental policy reforms. It concludes with suggestions for how new policies should be designed, as well as examples of successfull regulatory innovations already in practice around the world.

Chapter 2: Measuring pollution

Daniel Press

Subjects: environment, environmental politics and policy, politics and public policy, environmental politics and policy


Good environmental regulation depends on high-quality data. How much do we really know about environmental quality in this country? More pointedly, can we be reasonably sure that our expensive, complex regulations achieve the desired results? Far too often, regulators cannot confidently convey the environmental bases or consequences of their regulatory programs. Consequently, it is exceedingly difficult to hold the policy community– regulators, dischargers and other stakeholders–accountable for their actions. Policy scholars have not helped much. Those of us writing about policies rely on environmental data without adequately examining their quality. Chapter 2 explores the evidentiary problem confronting modern environmental regulation, using the US Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) as an illustrative case. In addition to examining problems with the data, this chapter also suggests that policy scholars cannot possibly draw credible conclusions from environmental data collected by others without carefully addressing the data’s errors and uncertainties.

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