The presidency and environmental policymaking: A critical assessment of George Bush

Ronald Gene Westfall, University of Nevada, Las Vegas


Environmental concerns have, gradually and precariously, become integrated into the American policymaking process. Recognized as an essential aspect of human quality of life, environmental policy receives ever increasing attention from American policymakers. Owing to developments such as the passage of the Clean Air Act and the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, the significance of addressing environmental challenges has garnered both domestic and international attention. In providing guidance for American environmental policies, American presidents function as vital arbiters in the shaping of domestic and international environmental policies. Herein lies the necessity for addressing environmental policymaking crafted within the parameters of American presidential power; Although environmental policy outcomes are influenced by nonenvironmental policy calculations, policy transformations over the last three decades warrant investigating environmental policy formation as a distinct field. Public, presidential, and other policymaking factors reveal how crucial presidential power is in the determination of environmental policy outcomes. President George Bush demonstrated how vital presidential power is in the determination of such policy outcomes. His use of presidential power can be properly viewed as the decisive factor in the policy fulfillment of the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments and the treaty obligations the United States consented to at the 1992 United Nations Conference on the Environment and Development (UNCED). The 1990 Clean Air Act amendments required presidential execution of new emission mandates in order to achieve tougher clean air standards. The 1992 UNCED treaty obligations depended upon presidential leadership to meet domestic and international treaty goals. President Bush's policy calculations decided the policy outcomes in both of these environmental policy areas.