Cooperative Federalism


The Clean Air Act (CAA) is supposed to be a shining example of cooperative federalism. This means that both the states and the federal government play key but distinct roles in implementation. For the past year or so, a small but extremely vocal group of Republican politicians has waged a misinformation campaign in the media and the courts about how the EPA is destroying the CAA’s cooperative federalism system. These politicians claim that EPA oversteps the bounds of the federal role in this relationship, and that it cuts the states out of their appointed role. These claims are completely false. EPA has always bent over backwards to allow states to be the primary implementers of the CAA, and continues to do so.

The anti-EPA campaign is based on false premises. The first is that less CAA implementation is good for states, and more implementation is bad for states. This premise, in turn, is based on the myth that less CAA implementation means more economic growth and more CAA implementation means less economic growth. EPA opponents argue, in effect, that more pollution means more economic growth and less pollution means less economic growth. This is where renewable energy/energy-efficiency advocates need to step in. We need to consistently and strategically debunk this mythology. Every solar panel added to a roof, every wind turbine erected, every efficiency retrofit means less pollution and more economic growth. We need to put this message out in our personal and professional communications, especially with elected and appointed officials and their staffs, as well as in paid and earned media.

Robert Ukeiley ( is a lawyer who represents environmental nonprofits in Clean Air Act litigation affecting energy issues.


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