William D. Ruckelshaus and the EPA

Abstract

When William D. Ruckelshaus took over as the first administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970 he faced two major problems: how to keep the various agencies the EPA had inherited running while the new organization was just getting off the ground, and how to generate sufficient activity to convince the public and other interest groups that the EPA was serious about cleaning up the environment. This case describes Ruckelshaus' early handling of the agency, including his establishment of goals and priorities as well as his dealings with the White House, Congress, environmental groups and the public. After six months, Ruckelshaus had created an activist image for himself and the EPA; but in spite of its initial actions against polluters, the EPA's effectiveness was being challenged by the Justice Department and conservationists. With two critical deadlines facing him, Ruckelshaus needed to consider the EPA's future course in enforcing pollution control. This case illustrates the development of organizational strategy in a complex political setting. It is especially useful in fostering a discussion of the merits of a broad statement of goals in an organization as well as a consideration of what makes a "good" goal. Students may be asked to examine the process used by Ruckelshaus to determine his goals as well as the resources available to him.

This Kennedy School Case Program case was written by Peggy Wiehl and is provided to Electronic Hallway members through a cooperative arrangement between the Electronic Hallway and the Kennedy School of Government Case Program.

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