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The US Pro-Environmental or Anti-Environmental Legislation Research Paper

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Updated: Dec 24th, 2021


The issue of environmental conservation has been there for many decades. Most of the past United States presidents were seen to come up with legislations aimed at fostering environmental conservation in the country. Most of the current environment conservation legislations in the country are credited to these presidents. However, there have been presidents who have been seen to come up with policies aimed at shooting down some of the established environmental conservation legislations. This paper aims at outlining some of the pro-environmental or anti-environmental legislations that were enacted by the past presidents of the United States.

President Theodore Roosevelt

One of the United States’ president found to have steered ahead the need for environmental conservation is Theodore Roosevelt. During his tenure, he signed several environmental legislations which included Reclamation Act of 1902. When Roosevelt assumed the presidency, he developed an idea that the western dry lands could be made productive through irrigation (Cutright, p. 97). This would help in rehabilitating land that had been left unproductive for many years. To achieve this, he used his presidency position to lobby for the support of introduction of the Reclamation Act. This Act was enacted in 1902 leading to establishment of sixteen projects aimed at reclaiming the dry lands in different states in the country.

The desire by Roosevelt to conserve environment led to him passing the Antiquities Act in 1906. This act gave the president the mandate to declare any site recognized as national monument without having to get authorization from the Congress. This helped him establish numerous national parks as well as declaring Grand Canyon a national monument when it became hard for it to be converted into a national park (Cutright, p. 103). The Act has for many years helped the country conserve some of its monuments which could have been destroyed by the citizens. Most of the current national parks as well as monuments are credited to Roosevelt’s legislations.

President Nixon

Another American president who was found to be pro-environmentalists was President Nixon. It is during his regime that the country saw establishment of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). President Nixon signed into a law two Acts which helped the country greatly conserve its environment. These were the Clean Air and Water Acts. He also came up with authorities to control noise and ocean dumping. The Clear Air and Water Act gave EPA the mandate to ensure that people were not subjected to harmful chemicals released into the air or drained into the lakes and ocean (Barkdull pp. 43-57). The agency was given the responsibility of conducting environmental assessment and coming up with standards to be followed when implementing environmental laws. It also worked in collaboration with industries in implementing environmental conservation programs established under the guidelines of Clean Air and Water Act.

Apart from the establishment of environmental conservation legislations, Nixon used his authority to enforce the Refuse Act of 1899 in controlling the manner in which wastes were being disposed in the country’s water bodies. He called for all industries to review their activities and come up with measures to curb water and air pollution (Barkdull pp. 58-62). It is during his regime that the country significantly saw a reduction in the amount of refuse damped in lakes as well as regulation of oil spillage in oceans.

President Carter

Under the reign of President Cater, several environmental conservation legislations were also enacted. These included the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Acts (ANILCA) 0f 1980 and environmental law in real estate transactions. ANILCA led to more than 104 million acres of land being set side for establishment of wildlife refugees and national parks. The Act helped in conservation of one of the most delicate ecological sites in the country. United States was able to preserve its wilderness as well as wildlife.

It is during this period that the government understood some of the environmental hazards that were posed by the development of real estates. It was established that during development of real estates, there are chances of leakage of lead paints as well as other underground reservoirs which may adversely affect the environment. Also the property established in the real estate such animals and plants may have an impact on the environment. It is with this respect that there was establishment of Endangered Species Act (Udall para. 2-5). The Act outlined some of the endangered species which ranged from plants to animals and gave the Attorney General the authority to disqualify any establishment of real estate if it is found to compromise the security of the endangered species. The Act called for real estate developers who perceived that their property would go against the Act to seek advice from the appropriate authorities. One had to pledge that he or she would develop his real estate in accordance with established conservation agreements to be given a green light.

President Reagan

During his role as the California governor, Reagan was seen to be one of the pro-environmentalists. He was found to support most of the agendas aimed at conserving the country’s environment. However, this was not the case when he became the president. He saw that most of the established environmental legislations hampered the growth of the country’s economy. His reign saw him come up with anti-environmental legislations to counter some of the established legislations (Lazarus 35). During his rule, Reagan introduced more flexibility in the Clean Air and Water Acts. His regime changed the mean of the term “source” as it was being used in the Clean Air Act. This led to sources of air pollution releasing more refuse to the environment without being deemed to have gone against the established regulations.

His changes in the Clean Water Act gave the engineers from the Military an opportunity to venture into wetlands and establish their structures. Most of the wetland that was initially recognized by the Clean Water Act as conserved area was encroached by the military without having to seek approval of their activities from EPA (Lazarus 44).

President Bush Senior

President Bush senior is another United States president who was found to be pro-environmentalist. During his rule, Bush signed and passed a legislation that sought to make amendments on the established Clean Air Act in 1990. This was by part influenced by the disaster that was experienced by the country when an oil tanker spilled more than ten million gallons of oil into the ocean. Some of the provisions introduced in the amendments were the move to curb acid rains, doing away with industrial release of harmful chemicals and cutting down on urban smog.

The same year also saw the president enact the Pollution Prevention Act. This Act aimed at reducing the rate of environmental pollution in the country by addressing the source of these pollutant agents. The Congress used the act to come up with measures to help cut down on the amount of pollutant agents produced at the sources of environmental pollution (Barilleaux & Stuckey pp. 241-268). During this period, there were numerous ways of reducing environmental pollution but industries were not willing to adapt them. The Act aimed at encouraging the industries to use some of the available cost effective ways of reducing environmental pollution.

President Clinton

The Clinton regime also saw enactment and amendment of several environmental legislations. One of the amendments was in Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) in 1996. Some of the changes made in this legislation were the clause that gave EPA the authority to control 25 new contaminants every three years as well as calling for the administrators to ensure that there is equilibrium on risks of all contaminants to facilitate in reducing chances of them adversely affecting people. EPA was required to ascertain the benefits of its established maximum contaminant levels in relation to its costs and also to impose stern regulations when necessary.

There was also establishment of Food Quality Protection Act. This Act saw removal of pesticide scum on refined foods from the class of those substances that have no adverse effects on human (Cavanagh, Hahn & Stavins pp. 4-18). It also got rid of the difference between pesticide scum in unprocessed food and processed food. It also gave EPA the power to implement pesticide regulations.

President George W. Bush

George W. Bush will be remembered as one of the American presidents who contributed to environmental degradation of not only United States but also the entire world. During his reign, he declared that his country would not abide by the Kyoto Protocol which was aimed at cutting down on the amount of greenhouse gas. Instead, he came up with legislations in 2002 that aimed at expressing the commitment by the country to cut down on the amount of greenhouse gas emission by 18% in span of ten years (Scherer para. 2-5). This meant that the amount of gas emitted in the country would still continue going high but a lower rate.

The president was also found to weaken some of the guidelines established in the Clean Air Act by coming up with regulations that introduced new definition of the term “source”. This allowed industries to continue polluting air at a magnitude that was found to kill more than ten thousand people per year with limited interventions (Scherer para. 6-8). His slogan of clear skies made little to control the rate of air pollution in the country.

Works Cited

  1. Cutright, Paul. Theodore Roosevelt: The Making of a Conservationist. Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 1985.
  2. Lazarus, Richard. The making of environmental law. London: University of Chicago, 2007.
  3. Barkdull, John. Nixon and the marine environment. Presidential Studies Quarterly, 28.2 (1998): pp. 43-62.
  4. Barilleaux, Ryan & Stuckey, Mary. Leadership and the Bush Presidency: Prudence or Drift in an Era of Change. New York: Praeger, 1992.
  5. Cavanagh, Sheila, Hahn, Robert & Stavins, Robert. “National environmental policy during the Clinton years.” 2001.
  6. Scherer, Glenn. “George Bush’s war on nature.” 2003.
  7. Udall, Tom. “Protecting the Arctic Refuge.” 2007.
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