Regional & Interstate Environmental Authorities


Established in 1936, the Interstate Environmental Commission (IEC) is a tri-state water and air pollution control agency for New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.

You are an environmental consultant hired to assess and evaluate the performance of such an organization. You are tasked to indicate its strengths and weaknesses then suggest policy reform and adjustments for its mandates. You are given two academic papers to assist you:

  • Political Externalities, Federalism, and a Proposal for an Interstate Environmental Impact Assessment Policy
  • Evaluating collaborative environmental planning outputs and outcomes: Restoring and protecting habitat and the New York-New Jersey harbor estuary program

Your report as an evaluator should incorporate four sections:

  1. Current Situation of the (IEC) and its relation to individual states
  2. Advantages of such organization and the regional benefits it brings
  3. Highlight the shortcomings and explain where do you think it did not serve its purpose
  4. Future recommendations for its environmental mandate

In groups, write the evaluation report and do not exceed 4 pages covering the above structure.

3 thoughts on “Regional & Interstate Environmental Authorities

  1. Analysis of the Interstates Environmental Commission
    By Sara Tuz, Aaron Park, and Frank Delgado

    The Interstate Environmental Commission is a tri-state water and air pollution control l agency between New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. The goal of this agency is to protect and regulate the pollution that enters through the air and water in these states. This commission works together to establish an agreement on the types of regulations these states want to put into place. This commission is one of the oldest around for this type of regulation in the United States and it tracks the progress it makes through the implementation of different policies and data tracking.
    This commission started over 100 years ago after New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut officials noticed that the water quality was significantly decreasing in quality. The bad quality of the water was due to raw sewage and industrial waste pollution. The oysters and even the clams in the waterways where getting affected, the pollution altered the taste of these water critters to tasting more like oil according to locals at the time. Another significantly noticeable problem that occurred is people that were using the waterways where getting sick, and different types of lung problems just by breathing in the air, the air had a lot of remnants of coal dust and coal pollution. The three states noticed that they shared the waterways and air so they decided to come together and form a mutual agreement, because something needed to be done.
    First these three states went to congress to get approval of establishing a system that that can monitor the water. The congress gave consent, so the states made the interstate sanitation district and the Interstate Sanitation Commission with all three states together in 1941. This made it possible for these states to start monitoring and regulating big water and air polluters, this came at a time way before the United States was focusing on these issues and its important to consider when analyzing the Interstate Environmental commission.
    The Interstate Commission was the first of its time in the Unites States and the regulations where all up too them to establish, they brought a lot of good that benefited the states like water was no longer hypoxic and fish, clams, and water plants gained health from this. The Commission had both pros and cons, following are the Pros and Cons of the Interstate Commission.

    The benefits of having a interstate system that would bring together states that share the problems and boons that would come from a shared environment are numerous. Having a system that would regulate in between the states and the federal government would ease the burden off of both systems of government. The main task of the Interstate environmental impact is the assess the line of communication between the people, the state, and the federal government, and to give public accountability biases at the state level that horde environmental resources rather than share. The process of the line of communication would give the people more information as to what is going on with the resources that are being gathered together by the states. There is also the benefits of research with so much information being readily available with the information being given by the lines of communication.
    The Interstate Environmental Commission was fully established in 1941, with the federal government following suit and creating the Environmental Protection Agency years later. The Interstate Environmental Commission would be responsible for moving forward with strong programs covering interstate coordination, water testing and monitoring, responding to emergencies, regulating and enforcing, researching, and a full slate of activities to address public education and public outreach. An example of the IEC doing certain actions that lead to the benefits of the environment would be when the IEC was responsible for the proceedings that resulted in the substantial improvements in the operational procedures that closed certain landfills that threatened the health of the environment around. The Commission had targeted the issue of debris escaping off of the garbage barges into the waters that would drift into different districts, and the stench of the smell making property around the area uninhabitable. In efforts in information gathering and research, the data gaps and the need for comprehensive monitoring throughout the New York-New Jersey Harbor Complex and its tributaries were taken in order for the Commission to lead the process of developing numerous harbor-wide monitoring programs. The IEC has established and continues to implement an active, wide-ranged program of public education and public outreach.
    As with all environmental laws, there are drawbacks. Environmental laws, commissions, and alliances almost always have a grandiose vision of how they can change the future. As a result of that, they are almost always too far reaching and ambitious and run the risk of collapsing under their own weight. The IEC is no different. This was truly an ambitious and modern project for the time, but as we stand today, much of the areas under the jurisdiction of this compact still suffer from the same problems.
    In 1941, the IEC was one of a kind, but no longer. Now it could be seen as an antiquated group that is no longer necessary, seeing as a more all-encompassing law has been created since. In 1972, Congress passed the Clean Water Act, which set a standard for all environmental law for the time to come. It was a powerful law and set standards for water quality and practices related to water pollution all over the country. It has a specific plan for each one of the three states in this tri-state body and begs the question of why we need the IEC with the strength of the Clean Water Act. Although the IEC focuses primarily on the polluted water of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, it also touched on the air. Two years before the Clean Water Act was passed, the Clean Air Act had gone into effect. It had set standards for ambient air quality and had set a limit on the amount of air pollution a company could emit. Just as the Clean Water Act had rendered the water portion of the IEC useless, the Clean Air Act did the same. The policy process is just fine without an extra layer of bureaucracy between the state and federal government.
    Lastly, there is the problem that is brought up when lobbying against environmental action all the time: the argument of disproportionate impact. Most environmental policies use taxation, tariffs, or other government interference to drive up prices for things that damage the environment. This in turn does not affect the affluent nearly as much as it affects the poor or disenfranchised people of this country. Considering that the IEC is out to set water and air quality standards specifically in the tri-state area, there are serious ethical and socio economic questions proposed by this. In this area are several combustion power plants that employ people on the bottom of the socio economic spectrum and if some plants are hurt by the IEC’s plans, this could disproportionately affect lower income peoples. It is an ethical issue that is seldom brought up when discussing environmental policy.
    For future recommendations for the Interstate commission, I think that the Commission needs to focus on areas and people that are significantly disadvantaged and have lower incomes. Environmental justice should be brought up in the reports and discussions that these officials are having. Historically lower income and people of color have been affected most by pollution, due to the fact that there are more pollution sites around their homes. There are significantly more oil refineries and water treatment plants in lower income communities. These people are misrepresented and need to be addressed and an issues need to be proposed on to how to make sure that they are not marginalized.
    Another very important issue that needs to be addressed by the the Interstate Commission is the disposal methodology and how different water and plants that produce air waste get rid of their waste. This again ties back into the disadvantage communities, where these communities are getting the worst of it. According to the EPA, the amount of superfund sites, waste storing sites, are disproportionately around low income areas. The commission should both address this and implement policies at a state level that would change this type of discrimination.
    Another issue that the commission needs to address and put into play is how dirty water and air affects women in general. There was a report that came out and was addressed in congress, which talked about how women are more likely to be negatively influenced by their physical environment. The commission should address and implement laws that help women in certain situations. The interstate system has many benefits and drawbacks that has brought forth many things that have brought great changes to the governmental systems. The introduction of an interstate governmental program has been a change that can be embraced with new benefits to come or that of more regulations that would slow down the process of business. The interstate system is one that can bring forth great changes.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Andrea Vega
    Noam Shimon

    The Interstate Environmental Commission (IEC) is an agency that control, regulate, and enforce water and air pollution across three states – New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey. The organization was established in 1936 among two states, and in 1941 the state of Connecticut joined. The Commission first named the agency Interstate Sanitation Commission, and on October 2000 they decided to change the name to its current in order to better identify its mission and accountabilities. Collaborations among several states, allowing the Commission to be more effective in long and short-term planning, and overall improve infrastructures and protect the environment and natural resources that are vital for healthy living.

    Similar to many other densely-populated and rapidly developed metropolitans, over a century ago, this region experienced poor water quality, pollution, and bad air quality that impacted many habitats – destroyed marine ecosystems, and endangered the growing populations. Without establishing a body that will oversees the protection of the environment, this region could have experienced much greater destruction of natural resources that are vital for the overall health of the community. Fortunately, due to the collaborated advocacy among the three states as well as legislations and implementation of new regulations the Commission is overseeing the operation of wastewater treatment facilities, and as a result it reduced bacterial defected water regions. Consequently, trades such as shell-fishing can operate annually and public beaches are less polluted. These days, when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that is led by Scott Pruitt, is failing to do its job and even more so deregulating crucial legislations that designed to protect the environment, interstate Commissions such as the IEC are playing important roles in ensuring the protection of public and private lands. Without the dedicated work of many environmental protection agencies, our communities could become polluted and unlivable.

    The global movement of protecting the natural environment must be collaborations of bodies – agencies, regions, states, the federal office, and counties; otherwise, the overall health of the ecosystems will continue to fail, and as a result future generations as well as other biological systems and organisms will suffer and experience difficulties in maintaining simple lives. For example, if states like California who’s recognized with its tough regulations for environmental protection will act alone without collaborating with its neighbor states, eventually it will have to “pay the price” and spend many funds and resources to reduce pollutants and repair destructions and abuses of resources that are likely to impact the region. However, if similar to the Interstate Environmental Commission, there will be a regional body that oversees the constituency and will form a long-term protection plan and enforcement it will prevent irrelevant spending of repairing damaged areas; and it will also prevent irresponsible managers, such as Scott Pruitt from executing careless visions for the sake of privately owned corporations.

    In addition to collaboration among individual U.S. states, there is a necessity to operate globally and continually forming Commissions that will work together for missions, such as protecting natural habitats and enforcing visions and regulations across continents. The Paris Climate Accord that was adopted by 195 nations on December 2015 is an example for such collaboration within United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that were initiated to resolve issues such as reducing the overall greenhouse emissions, and develop financial plans that would assist countries to achieve their goals with minimally impacting their local economies. The adaptation of the Paris Climate Agreement was designed to address the flaws of the Kyoto Protocol, which was adopted on December 1997. Despite its inability to reduce emission, the Kyoto procedure initiated a global collaboration and discussion that assisted in finding solutions to delay global warming. For example, as a result of the Paris Climate Accord, some European Nations adopted policies that will help them achieve the set goals.

    The IEC’s mission to protect and enhance environmental quality through regulations and collaborative work between the people and the government draws attention to the issues at hand and also creates a circle of education. However there are issues that can arise from an interstate environment. Cross property boundaries harm the economic extremities, public process, biases, and the impacts of this on the state. Systems that work like a bureaucratic system can often be at a disadvantage regarding their ability to adapt to the changing conditions of the political environment. Regional and national harms can be seen in decisions regarding new infrastructures that promote environmental change and sustainability. For example while a city like San Francisco has invested in changing their infrastructure and created regulations, they might feel they don’t need to help a neighboring city like Richmond who does not have such a progressive outlook and fails to articulate their concern for a more sustainable living. However their decision to not help isn’t taking into consideration that the decisions that Richmond makes environmentally, can affect San Francisco. This creates an environmental exterminity. The regulations and funding going towards being a more sustainable city for San Francisco could later then be imposed to Richmond, regardless of the city having the means to formulate a city plan and fit it into the budget. Physical effects that cities could experience to these interstates would be water and air pollution. Plans for water and air pollution within cities could regulate the amount of pollution going into the city or how they clean their water. But if this state isn’t taking into account another state, their regulations might have a negative impact on them. Their water can become polluted by the state that imposed regulations or their pollution of air could also increase. This is called a Transboundary air and water pollution problem. This creates an interstate pollution problem because boundary lines are blurred and what benefits one state could deteriorate the environment of another and lacks design and location decisions that could prevent these extremities.

    In order to ensure the protection of the environment – reduce pollutants in the air, on land, and maritime, guard natural resources, and all ecosystems we should form global and local Commissions that will regulate and oversee the liveliness of habitats. For example, a protection of water resources for future generations and other habitats. This can be done through regulations and long-term plans that will monitor water quality, ensure access to clean water resources, proper community development without harming other ecological systems, and provide solutions for agriculture and industrial use. In regard to air quality, these agencies will similarly formulate a plan that will prevent exponential growth in pollution and provide preventative measures. Some of these adaptations will be moving towards sustainable approaches that will enforce the adaptations to renewable energy sources, electric vehicles, and the develop of filtration system that will minimize industrial pollutions. Without initiating a global collaboration to protect the environment, our fragile ecological system can fail and all life on planet Earth can vanished.

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  3. IEC Tri-State Regional Committee
    Seles Tong and Victoria Mitchell
    Current Situation
    The IEC, a regional committee that addresses air and water pollution in the NY Tri-State area (New York, New Jersey and Connecticut), was established in 1936. Its mission is to, “protect and enhance environmental quality through cooperation, regulation, coordination and mutual dialogue between government and citizens in the Tri-State region (” It is the center of major water control efforts and regional management efforts. The IEC initiates actions that will affect the tri-state area: geographical (Long Island Sound in NY) and pollution concerns. The agency wants to ensure there is adequate infrastructure, e.g.wastewater treatment, in an attempt to prevent water pollution through infrastructure. Currently the IEC believes it needs to increase public and legislative awareness. On the legislative end there is a need to produce more funds and have more of a say it is goals and projects. From a public side the IEC wants to educated the public of water and air pollution. They (IEC) believe that educating the public on these issues will result in more funding and compliance with anti pollution legislation. Regardless of the success of these implementations the IEC has other means to generate additional funding. A fundamental belief in the IEC is that working together as a region is vital to ensure a healthy environment. With that being said, its is imperative that each state in the region works together to achieve a clean environment.

    There are three levels of institution, the first level is within the state, the second level is within several states, known as interstate, the third level is within the federal environment. For this paper, we are discussing the second level which is the interstate level and focussing on The Interstate Environmental Commission (IEC). There are both advantages and disadvantages to work interstate.
    First, institutions that work interstate can bring out a more integrated system to achieve the goal. For example The Interstate Environmental Commission (IEC) is focusing on both air and water pollution control within the states of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, those three states are next together so it can bring out a more complete control system as air and water is flowing within states and countries. If they are polluted in the one area, it is going to affect the area next to it too. Therefore, if several states are working together on one goal, it can be easier to accomplish it.
    Second, working interstate can monitor the whole agreement better than just within one state. If three states all sign an agreement, they must accomplish it since it involves other states. One state cannot just give up on working the agreement suddenly because the other two states can criticize it. Also, there will be a pressure built within the states to push all of them to accomplish the goal. It is like working in a group and working individually at school. If there is a framework built within a group, requiring all the group members to finish a specific part in a specific time, there will be a pressure built on individuals to finish it because other group members can blame on it and individuals cannot quit whenever they want. In this scenario, goals can usually get it in time. However, if it comes to individual projects, we can set our timeframe and goals ourselves but not to follow it. We can also choose to not to turn it in or turn it in late, it is all about the decisions made by individuals. Therefore, interstate institution can bring out a better monitoring and goals can easier to be accomplished.

    Regional committees have historically have limited success. This is part due to political and informational biases. A state with a larger legislature can garner more power in the committee. Furthermore, there tends to be a breakdown in communication among state that belong to the committee. Need to consider impact in source state that introduce legislations and the affected state or the state that would be affect in the regional committee. Another drawback is that pollution does not recognize boundaries but legal and political systems do. Attempts to assist in interstate environmental impacts on a federal level have been inconsistent. There is a fine line between a regional committee and state’s sovereignty. Typically, state’s sovereignty has been a leading factor in why many regional committees have been ineffective. Additionally, funding has impeded regional committees efforts to reduce pollution. States can be apart of a regional committee but fail to pass legislation to effectively reduce pollution. In other words, if a state fails to meet guidelines in is out of compliance with committee regulations. Furthermore the remaining compliant states would have to foot the cost of the failed state in order to meet the committees standards.
    – Due to the fact that NY,NJ, and CT are connected by the same body of water and share the same water supply it is vital to their environmental safety to remain in the committee. Being vigilant of state’s sovereignty while protecting a shared environment is how the committee should proceed.
    – Establish a legislative committee to reduce political biases. Since the biggest problem in the current system is that the committee suggestions need to pass through each state legislature. Larger states with more people like New York have an advantage within the committee due to its population. Therefore, we recommend to build a legislative committee resulting from voter input (elections). Each state votes 2 committee members to represent them. The committees makes the decision for each state This will reduce political bias in the decisions of pollution control within the main (IEC) committee.
    – Keep all legislative decisions under one umbrella to prevent breaks in communication. A result the committee will be adhering to its decisions to effectively reduce pollution in the region.

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