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Abstract

This article focuses on the role that states play in environmental regulation. Specifically, this article offers examples of the central part in the evolution of United States environmental regulation states played in the past, continue to play today, and will play in the future. First, this article explores the history of state environmental regulation, demonstrating that despite a lack of resources, states were actively engaged in environmental regulation before the advent of the modern era of federal environmental regulation in the 1970s. This article relates not only the regulatory efforts of states, but also the practical benefits of state regulation. Further, this article discusses the ways in which state environmental regulations were used to form the first federal environmental laws, demonstrating that states have been environmental innovators from the outset. Second, this article describes the current environmental regulatory scheme, often referred to as cooperative federalism, which demonstrates the states' major role in carrying out the nation's system of environmental statutes and regulation. Third, this article provides several examples of states' continuing role as environmental innovators, highlighting several state efforts to establish programs and regulatory approaches that exceed the minimum level of environmental regulation established by the federal government. While acknowledging that some states adopt the federal minimum environmental standards as maximum regulatory approaches in their borders, this article nonetheless asserts that states' actions as innovators is powerful and necessary, as evidenced by their ability to influence the market using their own environmental regulations, their ability to partner with other organizations to create new federal standards, and their ongoing efforts to work with the federal government to improve on the collaborative federalism model. This article concludes that this nation must move to an era of true environmental partnership between states and the federal government to achieve meaningful environmental progress--and to deliver the clean and healthy environment all Americans have come to expect and demand. To do this, we must continue to fuel states with political, fiscal, and public support, so that they may continue their important role as engines of environmental innovation.