Your local stationPBS
Student Organizer

Learn more at:

Optional Handout #4D:

You have been assigned to consider how the clash between some state and national environmental regulations illustrates controversy over federalism.

The other members of your group are:

Decide as a group who will have each of the following roles:

  • Discussion leader: This person will make sure that the group discussion is focused, and that all students are involved in the discussion and can contribute ideas.

  • Note taker: This person will be sure to record all ideas legibly.

  • Timekeeper: You have 15 minutes to complete this handout with your group and to prepare your presentation. The timekeeper should be sure to keep the work on schedule. He or she should also help the presenter stay on track for time.

  • Presenter: After your group discusses your answers, the presenter should be ready to give a three- to four-minute presentation about your group's decision.

NOTE: If your group has more than four students, you may add a second presenter and/or an artist to provide a visual aid for the spoken presentation.

After you have identified students to take each of these roles, read the information provided and answer the questions together as a group. At the end of your discussion, your group will present its findings to the class in a three- to four-minute presentation.

The federal and state governments have often been at odds over the issue of environmental regulation for quite some time. States sometimes develop their own regulatory actions or file suit against the national government to provoke legislative or regulatory change.

For instance, in 2005 New York City sued the Department of Energy because the department was 13 years behind schedule in developing and implementing efficiency standards for appliances. In another example, several Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states banded together to develop the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative to monitor emissions.

States such as New York and California have tended to take an activist approach when it comes to the environment, setting standards that might be more strict that those required under federal law. Other states are satisfied to follow the federal standards.

The concern of the federal government, including agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency, is that state actions often conflict with regulations set on the national level. They contend that it is not practical to set and enforce environmental standards on a state-by-state basis.

Questions to Consider

Answer the following questions on a separate sheet of paper. The group should also take notes on the newsprint that has been provided.

1.) Provide a brief summary of the issue.

2.) Explain how the concept of federalism is evident in this issue.

3.) Look again at Handout #1: Federalism Classification Activity.

  • What do you think are the best arguments for states to make about the power of the states to make and enforce its own laws related to this case?

  • What do you think are the best arguments for the federal government to make about how its powers apply in this case?

4.) What position would you take on this issue? Is it the right of the federal or state governments to make a decision on this issue? Why?

5.) What do you think the Supreme Court would decide if it heard a case on this issue?

Produced by Thirteen/WNET New York Funded by New York Life