The End Game of Deregulation: Myopic Risk Management and the Next Catastrophe

By using the Kingston Fossil Fuel Plant’s spill into the Emory River as a case study, this article offers several explanations for why the twentieth century dynamic of crisis and reform has disappeared in the early twenty-first century. In Part I, it is argued that regulated industries dominate regulatory debates on Capitol Hill and at the federal agencies to an unprecedented extent. Part II examines what is known about the Kingston spill and the implications of that information for recurrence of such events. Part III explains how the EPA and Congress responded to this disaster, highlighting how politics driven by a deregulatory ideology eventually took over the EPA’s science-based rulemaking process. Part IV offers suggestions for rebuilding regulatory agencies like the EPA and for restoring public trust in government.

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