Most of the standards governing the risks of concern in this chapter have been established by administrative action under federal legislation. The administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, for example, lists environmental pollutants and sets standards for their allowable concentrations in, say, drinking water or the atmosphere by a process that usually includes a hearing. After proposed regulations are reviewed by the public and departmental consultants, and a final version adopted, the final action is the promulgation of a regulation with the force of law, which is published in the Federal Register.
The enforcement of the regulation is by administrative and court action, by court action in civil proceedings for an injunction and civil penalties, or by court action in criminal proceedings. Where the risks arise from a utility plant or other facility licensed under a quasi-judicial process (such as a nuclear plant licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission), consideration of the elements of risk as applied to that facility is an important aspect of the licensing process.
The attainment and maintenance of ambient air quality at the levels set by the Environmental Protection Agency are principally the responsibility of the states,7 a responsibility they exercise under state implementation plans that have been approved by the EPA. The plans vary greatly in detail from state to state. Local agencies may also comprise parts of the regulatory process.
The complexity and repercussions of such implementation plans are worthy of more than passing notice. For example, as will be considered under “Emissions and Wastes,” the vast majority of urban areas are not in compliance with the ozone standard, and the agency expects that even 10 years from now, some will find compliance very difficult despite envisioned steps to curb automobile emissions and to limit traffic patterns.
Should an unattainable standard be relaxed? Under the Clean Air Act, standards are to be reviewed every 5 years and may be revised by the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency on the basis of that review. The act requires, however, that the standards be based squarely on