TCS Daily


New Administration Should Practice 'New Environmentalism'

By Jessica Gavora - March 8, 2001 12:00 AM

"The future ain't what it used to be," Lynn Scarlett, host of TechCentralStation's New Environmentalism section and president of the Reason Foundation, told a gathering of state and local environmental leaders Thursday in Washington.

At the National Environmental Policy Institute's annual environmental summit, Scarlett said that the Bush administration holds the promise of a "New Environmentalism that taps local knowledge, inspires innovation, reinforces self-motivated environmental stewardship and achieves more integrated decision making."

Scarlett was joined at the summit, "Democratizing Environmental Policy, Moving State and Local Priorities into Washington," by Interior Secretary Gale Norton and EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman.

Norton promised a new era of federal-state cooperation. "The Department of Interior is your ally" she said. "We must move past geographic and partisan barriers to bring state and local priorities to Washington."

Scarlett in her address identified four persistent challenges to replacing the old Washington-centered command-and-control approach to environmental problems with a decentralized model of environmental self-government, The New Environmentalism.

"I call these (challenges) the four 'I's - for information, innovation, incentives and integration," Scarlett said. "First, how do we better tap local knowledge - on the farm and in the factory -- to find solutions that are more amenable to local problems and conditions? Then, how do we inspire environmental innovation? Today, too many regulations stand in the way of creativity in problem solving."

"Third, we have to reinforce incentives for self-motivated environmental stewardship by businessmen, farmers and individual private citizens," said Scarlett. "Regulators can't be everywhere. Our challenge is to allow regulated folks to innovate while at the same time keeping a high performance focus and expectation. And finally, how do we achieve more integrated environmental decision making, looking at the whole rather than the sum of the parts?"

Examples of the New Environmentalism, Scarlett told the gathering, are the pork and poultry producers in some states putting together environmental assessment programs in cooperation with local officials and input from environmental experts. These self-stewardship programs develop performance standards and then set up third-party audit processes that constantly monitor their performance.

Scarlett called on Congress to support the New Environmentalism by reducing legal uncertainty for companies involved in alternative environmental programs. She also urged federal environmental officials to "move from enforcement bean counting to performance indicators." In Florida, Scarlett said, state environmental officials have established a set of performance indicators for industry that are producing better environmental results, not just more regulatory activity.

"The Florida performance indicators are indicators of environmental equality but they are also behavioral indicators that tell officials who are the good deed doers and who are not," Scarlett noted. "And they are also agency indicators, telling both officials and private industry who efficiently and effectively the environmental agency is working."

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