Like most other United States (US) governmental agencies, the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) was established and its purposes defined in US statutory law. Specifically, the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) gave the CEQ responsibility for pursuing the development and implementation of policies that support and encourage environmental stewardship and sustainability. In this article, we examine what has happened to CEQ over the 40 years from its birth on January 1, 1970, to January 1, 2010. Among the key findings of the study is that the CEQ energetically and effectively pursued its assigned statutory goals during the 1970s, the first decade of its existence, but its capacity to do so was dramatically reduced during most of its second decade, the 1980s. The CEQ's capacity improved somewhat at the end of the second decade. Then the CEQ's fortunes declined again in the early years of the 1990s, its third decade, before recovering modestly in the middle of the decade. During most of its fourth decade, 2000–2008, the CEQ's energy level was elevated, but its presidentially assigned task seemed to be an inversion of its statutory purposes. These findings illustrate the malleability of statutory law in the American political context, and they illuminate gaps that exist in two prominent agency life-cycle theories.
Environmental Practice 13:1–9 (2011)