Cleaning up the "Big Dirties": The Problem of Acid Rain
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Shortly after his 1989 inauguration, President George Bush confronts a seemingly intractable dispute which had simmered through the 1980s: how to legislate the clean-up of the so-called "big dirties", large coal-burning Midwest power plants linked to acid rain and a decline in the vitality of lakes and forests in the Northeast. This case describes both the policy innovation which helps to break a long-standing political logjam and the process of negotiation and compromise involving the White House staff (led by White House Special Assistant for Economic and Domestic Policy Roger Porter) and key members of committees of the Congress. Specifically, the case describes how the Bush administration formed an alliance with key environmental groups (such as the Environmental Defense Fund) by embracing the concept of tradeable emission rights--the right to buy and sell permits to emit sulfur dioxide, for instance, one of the key pollutant byproducts of coal-burning. The advent of such "emissions trading", however, can only proceed once agreement is reached on the total amount of pollution reduction to be achieved by the key enabling legislation which will create the permit regime, the Clean Air Act of 1990. This case, in large part, tracks the shaping of that legislation.
This case, in large part, tracks the shaping of that legislation. It will be of use both to those with a topic interest in the use of economic tools to approach perceived environmental problems, and those interested more generally in the political process through which legislation is crafted.
- Case Author:
- John Buntin
- Faculty Lead:
- Robert Stavins and Roger Porter
- Pages (incl. exhibits):
- United States