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Since the 1970s, conservative activists have invoked free markets and distrust of the federal government as part of a concerted effort to roll back environmental regulations. They have promoted a powerful antiregulatory storyline to counter environmentalists' scenario of a fragile earth in need of protection, mobilized grassroots opposition, and mounted creative legal challenges to environmental laws. But what has been the impact of all this activity on policy? In Open for Business, Judith Layzer offers a detailed and systematic analysis of conservatives' prolonged campaign to dismantle the federal regulatory framework for environmental protection.
Examining conservatives' influence from the Nixon era to the Obama administration, Layzer describes a set of increasingly sophisticated tactics – including the depiction of environmentalists as extremist elitists, a growing reliance on right-wing think tanks and media outlets, the cultivation of sympathetic litigators and judges, and the use of environmentally friendly language to describe potentially harmful activities. She argues that although conservatives have failed to repeal or revamp any of the nation's environmental statutes, they have influenced the implementation of those laws in ways that increase the risks we face, prevented or delayed action on newly recognized problems, and altered the way Americans think about environmental problems and their solutions. Layzer's analysis sheds light not only on the politics of environmental protection but also, more generally, on the interaction between ideas and institutions in the development of policy.
Judith A. Layzer is Associate Professor of Environmental Policy in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at MIT. She is the author of Natural Experiments: Ecosystem-Based Management and the Environment (MIT Press) and The Environmental Case: Translating Values into Policy.
"A fascinating look at how conservatives and conservation came to be at odds. Given the mounting toll from global warming, and Washington's inaction, it couldn't be more timely."
– Bill McKibben, author Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet
"For several decades, U.S. environmental issues have primarily been fought out in administrative agencies, courts of law, and state legislatures. Each decision seems small and not very dramatic, but they add up. Judith Layzer's brilliant book tells us how they add up. It brings the long-term big picture into sharp view, showing how conservative and business interests have not only blocked major new legislative breakthroughs to address climate change, but have also chipped away at existing regulations and enforcement."
– Theda Skocpol, Victor S. Thomas Professor of Government and Sociology, Harvard University
"Judith Layzer's study of the conservative opposition to modern environmental policy is thoroughly researched, well written and well documented, and helps to begin to fill a particularly important gap in the history of modern environmental policy. It is a highly valuable contribution to the environmental policy literature, and I look forward to using it in my own teaching and research as well as recommending it to others."
– Richard N. L. Andrews, Professor of Environmental Policy, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
"Open for Business is a clear-headed and carefully researched book explaining the successes of and limits on the conservative campaign to reframe U.S. environmental policy. Judith Layzer gives us a compelling and theoretically rich insight into the parry and thrust of contemporary politics and policymaking. Open for Business is destined to be a worthy addition to the core literature on political power, and should be read by students of democratic theory and public policy formation as well as anyone interested in environmental politics."
– Christopher Bosso, Professor, School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs, Northeastern University