Document Type

Article

Publication Date

1994

Abstract

The author examines the images of community that lie behind the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision not to extend proactive, uniform regulation of the Clean Air Act to the problem of local industrial odor. Under this decision, the regulation of such odors remains dependent on complaints and local initiatives rather than on proactive governmental intervention. The legitimacy and economic logic of the reactive structures the agency endorsed rely on two assumptions: (1) industrial odors are an aesthetic annoyance rather than a toxic threat; and (2) local environmental conditions reflect conscious decision-making by homogenous local communities as to trade-offs, and preferences for environmental quality will differ among these communities. The author uses three case studies to cast doubt on the validity of these assumptions; they demonstrate in particular the mythical character of the “community” posited by the EPA as a foundation for viable reactive enforcement. Indeed, to trigger enforcement, it has been necessary to undertake heroic organizational efforts and to create novel forms of social groupings hardly characterizable as “communities”.

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