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Linking Science and Technology to Society's Environmental Goals
is, a belief in minimal governmental regulation, in minimal government intrusion into the lives of individuals, and in minimal government taxing and spending.
The focus of Congress for the next seven to ten years will be, I believe, on getting control of the deficit—and it will remain a focus whichever political party, Republican or Democrat, has the majority in Congress or has the presidency. What we have right now is agreement between Congress and the Administration on balancing the budget; the only disagreements are whether it should be balanced in seven years or ten years, and which should be the spending priorities. However, the important thing will be the "bottom line."
This circumstance pits spending on the environment and environmental issues in general—which are not registering very high with the U.S. populace in the current polls—against spending on many other important areas such as Social Security, Medicare, crime, and so on. In fact, the Ladd-Bowman paper included in this forum's agenda book, noted that a January 1995 Gallup poll found that the environment was mentioned as the "most important problem" by only 1 percent of those surveyed. And Congress will tend first to respond to and address those issues in which there is strong public interest.
The near-term focus on balancing the budget—that is, the near-term focus on the bottom line—will make it difficult to concentrate on the long-term. And it will also make all environmental agencies budget targets. The Environmental Protection Agency budget has been cut at this point, and the National Biological Survey's existence as a stand-alone agency is uncertain—it may become part of the U.S. Geological Survey or downsized considerably if it survives. And, although several forces are at work here, financial considerations are the overwhelming driver.
Tom Grumbly also brought up another good issue—namely, that the old environmental consensus created in the late 1960s and early 1970s has broken down—and I would like to take a few minutes to address this topic.
That old environmental consensus remained largely intact throughout the 1980s, although there were controversies during the Reagan years. On the whole, however, environmental legislation was reauthorized, environmental funding grew, and things did move along. One could argue about the pace, but whichever side of a given environmental issue you were on, there was a broad consensus for a "command-and-control" approach to the environment—with the government either setting standards to be followed by the private sector or prescribing in detail the technology that the private sector must use to combat a particular environmental problem.
This is not to say that there were not complaints about the costs of environmental compliance, particularly from individual industries or companies that were impacted by a given environmental regulation. Those early costs, however, tended to be localized and tended to reap relatively large environmental benefits.
As we advanced into the late 1980s, however, further improvements to many areas of the environment became much more expensive, with fewer and fewer