In the 1970's Congress established an environmental protection regulatory system by passing laws which, like many preceding regulatory statutes, set relatively broad goals and timetables and left substantial discretion to the implementing agency on how best to achieve those goals. As demonstrated in the recent reauthorizations of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), however, Congress is no longer confident that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)' will exercise such discretion as intended by Congress. As a result, Congress itself has had to assume the role of regulator, making some of the detailed technical and administrative determinations typically left to the implementing agency. Instead of authorizing EPA to regulate the disposal of chemical wastes, Congress has prescribed the limits. Instead of relying on EPA to meet deadlines, Congress has established self-enforcing standards to be implemented in the absence of agency action. Instead of allowing EPA to establish technical standards of safety, Congress has set minimum requirements that EPA may not reduce.
James J. Florio,
Congress as Reluctant Regulator: Hazardous Waste Policy in the 1980's,
Yale J. on Reg.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/yjreg/vol3/iss2/6