This study of the Nevada State Environmental Commission inaugurates a series on government and the environment by the Rose Institute of State and Local Government of Claremont McKenna College.

Concern about the environment became a theme of American politics early in the 1970s. Whether it is merely a fashion or, conversely, a permanent tendency of public opinion and policy, there is no question that governments at all levels of the American federal system have been obliged to respond to the development of environmental consciousness over the last two decades.
Nevada was one of the first states to respond, creating a commission with immense regulatory power over air and water quality, and solid and hazards waste disposal. Its jurisdiction and powers touch potentially every aspect of the economy, large industry and small business alike, every community, and the way of life of every Nevadan. As more than one person associated with the State Environmental Commission has noted, if the Commission "'wanted to close down Southern Nevada, it could do so."

Because the American political system is finely tuned to public opinion, "when public opinion expresses itself, government invariably responds.
Responses may take several forms, although the most frequent are legislation and regulation. A virtual chorus of public opinion has led, by action of state legislatures or by the initiative process, to the creation in several Western states of dedicated governmental bodies with specific mandates over the air, water, land and the precious life that inhabits them. In turn, these bodies, such as the State Environmental Commission of Nevada, have built an impressive record of regulation that has had significant impact on a broad range of behaviors with respect to the environment.

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