Ronald Reagan on Environment
President of the U.S., 1981-1989; Republican Governor (CA)
1983: Mass resignation of EPA officials
When President Reagan took office in 1981, his first initiatives were to override much of the Carter environmental agenda. Reagan, much like Ford before him, appeared to be obsessed with eliminating regulation in government altogether.
He was equally as obsessed with deregulating the EPA. Reagan questioned the legitimacy of the agency as an independent authority. Critics argued that the Reagan program illegally delayed the promulgation of
EPA regulations, "subverted statutory standards, and excluded the public from full participation in the regulatory process.
More notably, these and other criticisms eventually culminated in an atmosphere of scandal that surrounded the Reagan EPA, a controversy that eventually led to the mass resignation of EPA officials in 1983.
Source: Cameron Lynch in W&M Env. Law Review, vol. 26 #1, p.222
, Jan 1, 2001
1983: Extended sovereign control 200 miles off US coast
In March 1983, in a little-noticed but historic act, President Reagan issued a proclamation confirming American sovereign rights and control over all living and nonliving resources within 200 miles of US coasts--a staggering addition to our natural
patrimony of some 2 million square miles, or about 4 billion acres. The seabeds we now control and the ocean above are an unopened treasure house. Our new offshore domains could become a Louisiana Purchase of the 21st century.
Reagan's actions were a sound alternative to the ill-considered 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. This UN proposal would create a socialistic system of control and regulation of the seas. It embodies an outmoded
1970s view of the world. Reagan would not approve the convention. If the nation is to realize the full potential of President Reagan's vision, we must create a forward-looking oceans policy that recognizes our many and complicated interests.
Source: Agenda For America, by Haley Barbour, p.277-278
, Apr 25, 1996
Dismissed acid rain proposals as burdensome to industry
[Reagan’s EPA director] was dismayed by Reagan’s cavalier dismissal of the importance of acid rain, which had destroyed fish and plant life in thousands of American and Canadian lakes and streams. During the 1970s it had become an issue in Canada,
which objected to the pollution originating in US smokestacks in the Midwest and deposited in Canadian forests and lakes. Reagan had promised Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau during a 1981 visit that he would honor the [agreement which Trudeau had
negotiated with Pres. Carter, which required] vigorous enforcement of anti-pollution standards.
After three years of much talk and little action, the EPA wanted Reagan to make a major budget commitment to reducing the causes of acid rain. The
EPA’s proposal was assailed as wasteful government spending by Reagan’s OMB and was rejected by Reagan, who questioned the scientific evidence on the causes of acid rain and was reluctant to impose additional restrictions on industry.
Source: The Role of a Lifetime, by Lou Cannon, p. 533-34
, Jul 2, 1991
Western enviro ethic: pro-development, common-sense
Reagan did not share fears that he would be damaged by environmental issues. He believed he brought a common sense view to environmental issues that was widely shared by Americans.
He always considered himself an “environmentalist,” a word he defined so loosely that he applied the term to James Watt as well. Left to his own devices, Reagan rarely thought about the environment in political terms.
Source: The Role of a Lifetime, by Lou Cannon, p. 526-29
, Jul 2, 1991
Page last updated: Jul 11, 2013