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Painting the White House Green, Rationalizing Environmental Policy Inside the Executive Office of the President
Randall Lutter and Jason F. Shogren, Editors
Washington, DC: RFF Press, 2004
176 pp., $25.95, Paperback
ISBN 1-891853-72-4

This book, Painting the White House Green, invites us to the White House via the President's Council of Economic Advisers (CEA). Although the book offers variety since each chapter is written by a different past member of the CEA, it is still cumbersome and difficult to follow. To its credit, the book provides detailed descriptions of the economic policy debates occurring within the White House for many environmental issues, from the Clean Air Act to the Clear Skies Initiative.

There is extensive discussion regarding the reasons for the success of the tradable permit emissions initiative, successful in the authors' point of view because of the use of a market-driven approach rather than a control approach. However, the economists write, a market-driven approach cannot be used for global warming initiatives since we all contribute to the problem. It seems that without supply and demand conditions, such as the trading of emission credits, we cannot have protective environmental policy. While reading this discussion, the rationale was lost on me.

The book informs the reader that economics may not play any role in deciding on environmental policy, but rather politics may play a primary role. I was hardly surprised at such an admission. According to the book's contributors, the planets must be perfectly aligned to pass environmental legislation and must be advantageous to industrial interests. Okay, and maybe environmentalist interests. Other than perfect alignment of planetary bodies, the anatomy of passage of environmental legislation must include: 1) an alignment of political constituents, 2) involvement of key players (implying that environmentalist and industry interests are at the same table and able to compromise on key conflicts-no small task), 3) acknowledgement that the current system is not working (imagine this, given our current administration), and 4) scientific peer-reviewed literature showing a linkage between the contaminants of concern (e.g., ozone depleting chemicals) and health. The big clincher in getting any environmental legislation moving toward passage includes the requirement that market forces alone should achieve the environmental goals. If market forces cannot achieve environmental goals, there is no chance for progressive environmental policy or legislation. Since market forces cannot achieve a reduction in global warming trends, the authors argue, our administration cannot support the Kyoto Protocol, sounds simple, huh?

There was a very interesting chapter written on the US Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) standard setting for ozone. Apparently, others on Capitol Hill lambasted the EPA for not including ground level ozone as a benefit in their cost-benefit analysis. Apparently, ground level ozone is considered beneficial in protecting against skin cancer.

In conclusion, the book offered me insight into why environmental legislation that is protective of public health is so hard to come by.

— Kitty Richards

Kitty Richards is an Environmental Health Educator with the Bernalillo County Office of Environmental Health. She leads the Education, Epidemiology and Evaluation Team

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". . . [I]t should be noted that the SEP [Springstead Estates Project] is, at best, in a conceptual stage and that it is totally speculative as to which, if any, aquifer would supply the SEP with water should the housing development ever be built."

— NRC Judge Thomas Moore
October 22, 2004

"Apparently the Government in Washington doesn't care about the health, safety and well-being of the 4,000 people who will be living in the Springstead community within five to ten years. This ruling is another example of how the NRC consistently ignores our communities' concerns about new uranium mining and why the Navajo Nation must step into this fight to protect our people."

— Johnny Livingston, President
Church Rock Chapter

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