Environmental Protection Agency
Environmental Protection Agency (Encyclopedia of Environmental Issues, Revised Edition)
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is responsible for protecting the public health and ensuring a clean environment by safeguarding natural resources, controlling air and water pollution, and regulating the disposal of solid waste in the United States. The agency carries out its mission through its rule-making and enforcement authority granted by the U.S. Congress. The EPA also conducts scientific research, provides environmental education to the public and to private companies, and utilizes the best available scientific information in its quest to reduce environmental risk. States and tribal nations throughout the United States follow the national standards set by the EPA in enforcing their own environmental regulations. The EPA provides grants to states, nonprofit entities, and academic institutions to carry out environmental and human public health research, often related to the cleanup of toxic waste sites. The EPA also works with other nations to protect the global environment.
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History (Encyclopedia of Environmental Issues, Revised Edition)
After World War II the growth of industrialization in the United States led to serious air and water pollution and environmental deterioration, which in turn spurred a movement that demanded the adoption of federal laws to protect the public health and clean up the environment. In 1969, President Richard Nixon created a White House committee to consider the existing environmental laws and enforcement agencies in the United States. In addition, Congress passed the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, which was signed into law on January 1, 1970.
A public policy of achieving harmony between humankind and the environment by assessing the environmental impacts of various federal projects was the impetus behind the National Environmental Policy Act and eventually the establishment of the EPA. The president’s committee recommended the creation of an independent environmental agency that would not be influenced by the goals and mandates of other agencies for the purpose of enforcing environmental laws. The Environmental Protection Agency became a reality when Congress consolidated the duties of several federal agencies into one entity in December, 1970. William D. Ruckelshaus became the agency’s first administrator.
The EPA was established for the purpose of enforcing many of the environmental laws adopted and amended by the federal government during the 1970’s and 1980’s as the result of public pressure to clean up the...
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RCRA and Superfund (Encyclopedia of Environmental Issues, Revised Edition)
Before the adoption of federal environmental laws in the 1970’s, the dumping of toxic materials in the United States, mostly illegal, took place with little government control. When the degradation of natural resources became a major concern, the federal government realized that it needed to step in and help to prevent the contamination of the environment with hazardous substances and to clean up old, abandoned toxic waste sites. In 1976 Congress passed the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) to prohibit future dumping of toxic and hazardous substances and granted the EPA authority for legal management of the disposal of such wastes “from cradle to grave.” Under the act, the EPA is responsible for regulating the generation, transportation, treatment, storage, and disposal of toxic and hazardous substances. Congress later passed several amendments to RCRA that gave the EPA the power to set standards for nonhazardous solid waste disposal and for the installation and maintenance of underground storage tanks containing hazardous substances such as petroleum products.
By 1980 Congress recognized that contaminated toxic waste sites throughout the United States had become a serious threat to public health and enacted the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act. The act, known as Superfund, provides for retroactive liability for those deemed to be the parties responsible for the...
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Challenges and Future Opportunities (Encyclopedia of Environmental Issues, Revised Edition)
Since its establishment, the EPA has demanded compliance with federal environmental laws from private businesses, from states, and from individual cities, such as Cleveland, Ohio; Detroit, Michigan; Los Angeles, California; and Atlanta, Georgia. The EPA has met its enforcement challenges by adopting and imposing strict regulations and often seeking assistance from the courts to obtain compliance. Moreover, the EPA has been in the forefront of cleanup after natural and human-caused environmental disasters, including those related to the hazardous wastes buried under the Love Canal residential development in Niagara Falls, New York; the Three Mile Island nuclear plant core meltdown near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska; the destruction of the World Trade Center towers by terrorists in New York City on September 11, 2001; and the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
In addition to its enforcement and cleanup functions, the EPA works in many areas to encourage the protection of the environment. Aside from its Energy Star program, which promotes energy efficiency in household appliances and other consumer products, the EPA has undertaken initiatives concerned with the reduction of greenhouse gases and the adoption of air-quality visibility rules. The agency has also conducted risk and peer-review assessments to ensure the safety of...
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Further Reading (Encyclopedia of Environmental Issues, Revised Edition)
Andrews, Richard N. L. Managing the Environment, Managing Ourselves: A History of American Environmental Policy. 2d ed. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2006.
Carson, Rachel. Silent Spring. 40th anniversary ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2002.
Collin, Robert W. The Environmental Protection Agency: Cleaning Up America’s Act. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2006.
Landy, Marc K., Marc J. Roberts, and Stephen R. Thomas. The Environmental Protection Agency: Asking the Wrong Questions—From Nixon to Clinton. Expanded ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.
McBrewster, John, Frederic P. Miller, and Agnes F. Vandome, eds. United States Environmental Protection Agency: Federal Government of the United States, National Environment, Environmental Policy of the United States, Energy Star, WaterSense, Safe Drinking Water Act. Phoenix, Ariz.: Alphascript, 2009.
Scheberle, Denise. Federalism and Environmental Policy: Trust and the Politics of Implementation. 2d ed. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 2004.
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Environmental Protection Agency
Background (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
From the inception of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1970, the organization has been beset by differing conceptions of its mission as the primary U.S. government environmental regulatory agency. The EPA expanded during the 1970’s but came under severe attack in the 1980’s, particularly during Anne Gorsuch’s tenure as director. The agency was revitalized and its mission expanded in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, only to suffer setbacks during the second Bush administration in the early twenty-first century. The EPA aims to protect the health of the human population by reducing the pollution of the environment. It has attempted to achieve this goal primarily through enforcing congressional legislation and issuing regulations.
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Organization and Mission (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
The EPA is headed by a director appointed by the president and has its central headquarters in Washington, D.C. It also has ten regional offices, each headed by a regional administrator. Although regional offices deal with all manner of environmental issues, national offices, each with a commissioner as head, deal with specific issues. These offices include the Air Pollution Control Office, the pesticide Office, the Radiation Office, and the Solid Waste Office. In addition, the Council on Environmental Quality coordinates federal and international environmental efforts. This group of three is appointed by the president and works closely with, though is independent of, the EPA. In some cases the implementation of the EPA’s regulatory burden is entrusted to state environmental agencies. The major regulatory tasks assigned to the agency include air quality, water quality, disposal of hazardous and radioactive wastes, the regulation of chemicals (including pesticides), and the setting of noise levels for construction equipment, transportation equipment, motors, and electronic equipment. Legislation that the EPA is charged with implementing includes the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (1947), the Clean Air Act (1963), the Clean Water Act (1965), the Endangered Species Act (1973), the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (1976), the Toxic Substances Act (1976), the Comprehensive Environmental Response,...
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The Impact of Politics (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
Public support for the EPA’s mission has shifted since its founding in 1970. In the early 1970’s, many Americans thought that the EPA was not moving fast enough to clean up environmental problems. By 1980, some people had begun to question the cost of environmental regulation, saying that the EPA had become too stringent. During the 1990’s public opinion shifted in the direction of a more supportive stance for environmental regulation. This stance continued even during the administration of George W. Bush.
One difficulty that continues to beset the EPA is the changing national political climate. Many aspects of the organization’s mission are highly charged politically. Therefore, the agendas of each presidential administration have affected the ability of the agency to carry out its mission. Until the presidency of Ronald Reagan (1981-1989), presidents and much of the public demanded tough enforcement of environmental laws. At times, the EPA had difficulty keeping up with public opinion in trying to clean up various environmental problems. During the Reagan administration the approach shifted as Gorsuch and Secretary of the Interior James G. Watt opposed stringent environmental regulation, often placing agency staff at odds with its leadership. The presidency of George H. W. Bush turned slightly to tough environmental regulation. The Clinton administration (1993-2000) heightened this tough stance. Carol...
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Public Health and the EPA (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
Protecting the public’s health is at the core of EPA’s mission. Regulating human contact with and possible ingestion of dangerous pesticides and improving water quality are two obvious examples of this mission. Cancer prevention, while not always a stated goal, has been one of the key concerns of the agency. In the late 1970’s, the EPA, the Food and Drug Administration, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission worked together through the Interagency Regulatory Liaison Group to formulate standards for dealing with chemicals that might cause cancer. However, the resulting document did not enunciate a clear standard of risk assessment, nor did it establish a sound level of cancer risk. It also failed as an attempt to educate the public concerning cancer risks and scientific uncertainty.
By contrast, the EPA’s efforts at regulating water and air pollution have led to several successes. Water quality has improved in the United States. Air quality has improved in some areas. In both cases the EPA had a clear mandate that it was able to implement and, therefore, was more easily able to achieve its goals.
The risk of cancer also underlay the public controversy concerning the implementation of Superfund legislation. Part of the problem with Superfund was Congress’s inability to set cleanup priorities or cleanup levels for Superfund sites. The EPA was...
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Impact on Resource Use (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
Although public health concerns have been the stated rationale for much of the EPA’s actions, further concerns have been the protection of the environment and resource conservation. Enhancing water quality, for example, has obvious benefits for aquatic life. Controlling the negative impact of pesticides has an impact from the bottom to the top of the food chain. The threat of acid deposition to forest products and water quality in some regions of the country is substantial; the EPA’s efforts to establish air-quality standards under the 1990 revisions of the Clean Air Act attempted to deal with this issue. Indirectly, the EPA’s regulations dealing with improving automobile mileage have decreased the consumption of both steel and oil. The question of mileage requirements remains a hotly debated issue, as the EPA has expanded its emphasis to encourage innovative types of automobiles as a means of decreasing pollution. The goal of much of the EPA’s regulatory efforts has been waste reduction. By its very nature, waste reduction lowers the amount of natural resources consumed by the economy.
The 1984 revisions of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) directed the EPA to advocate conservation as a means of dealing with hazardous materials. RCRA stated that the placement of hazardous wastes in landfills was the least favored option in dealing with these materials. The most favored approach was for industry...
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Further Reading (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
Collin, Robert W. The Environmental Protection Agency: Cleaning Up America’s Act. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2006.
DeLong, James V. Out of Bounds, out of Control: Regulatory Enforcement at the EPA. Washington, D.C.: Cato Institute, 2002.
Jasper, Margaret C. “The Environmental Protection Agency.” In Environmental Law. 2d ed. Dobbs Ferry, N.Y.: Oceana, 2002.
Klyza, Christopher McGrory, and David J. Sousa. American Environmental Policy, 1990-2006: Beyond Gridlock. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2008.
Landy, Marc Karnis, Marc J. Roberts, and Stephen R. Thomas. The Environmental Protection Agency: Asking the Wrong Questions from Nixon to Clinton. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.
McMahon, Robert. The Environmental Protection Agency: Structuring Motivation in a Green Bureaucracy—the Conflict Between Regulatory Style and Cultural Identity. Portland, Oreg.: Sussex Academic Press, 2006.
Portney, Paul R., and Robert N. Stavins, eds. Public Policies for Environmental Protection. 2d ed. Washington, D.C.: Resources for the Future, 2000.
Rosenbaum, Walter A. Environmental Politics and Policy. 7th ed. Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2008.
Samuel, Peter. Lead Astray: Inside an EPA Superfund Disaster. San Francisco: Pacific Research Institute, 2002.
Yeager, Peter Cleary. The Limits of...
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Environmental Protection Agency (West's Encyclopedia of American Law)
The purpose of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is to protect and enhance the environment in the present and for future generations to the fullest extent possible under the laws enacted by Congress. The mission of the agency is to control and abate POLLUTION in the areas of air, water, solid waste, noise, radiation, and toxic substances. The mandate of the EPA is to mount an integrated, coordinated attack on environmental pollution in cooperation with state and local governments.
The Environmental Protection Agency was established in the EXECUTIVE BRANCH as an independent agency pursuant to REORGANIZATION PLAN No. 3 of 1970, effective December 2, 1970. The EPA was created to permit coordinated and effective governmental action on behalf of the environment. The EPA endeavors to abate and control pollution systematically, by proper integration of a variety of research, monitoring, standard setting, and enforcement activities. As a complement to its other activities, the EPA coordinates and supports research and antipollution activities by state and local governments, private and public groups, individuals, and educational institutions. The EPA also reinforces efforts among other federal agencies with respect to the impact of...
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Environmental Protection Agency (Encyclopedia of Public Health)
In response to a growing environmental movement, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was formed in 1970 by President Richard Nixon through a Congressionally approved reorganization plan that joined together parts of existing federal agencies, including parts of the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS). The goal was to centralize federal organizational components involved with protecting human and ecological health from environmental threats. The EPA is responsible, either alone or with other agencies, for administering over twenty federal laws, including the Clean Air Act; the Clean Water Act; the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act (Superfund Act); the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act; the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act; the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act; the Safe Drinking Water Act; and the Toxic Substances Control Act. It differs from other federal agencies with health regulatory responsibilities by not having a defining legislative act (e.g., the Food and Drug Act for FDA). The administrator of EPA reports directly to the president and is sometimes unofficially accorded Cabinet status. EPA is organized into programmatic offices responsible for administering one or more of the environmental laws. There also are a number of crosscutting organizational components, including an Office of Research and Development responsible for assuring that EPA's activities are guided by sound science.
Under EPA oversight, there has been a substantial reduction in overt pollution. Urban air is visibly cleaner, the nation's rivers and beaches are now more swimmable and fishable; there is much less illegal dumping of hazardous wastes; recycling of household and industrial products is increasing; and it is far less likely that a manufactured chemical will be toxic to humans or to ecosystems. Yet many problems remain and new ones have developed, such as global climate change, the impact of loss of wetlands, the recognition of subtle biological effects of pollutants such as endocrine disruption, and the need for international harmonization of risk assessment and management practices in a global economy.
EPA's activities often have been controversial. Its first administrator, William Ruckelshaus, was brought back in 1983 after President Ronald Reagan's initial choice became a political liability and a senior EPA official was jailed for perjury. An area of tension within EPA is its role in public health, including its relations with federal public health agencies that also have roles in environmental protection. This tension is mirrored within the many states that have environmental protection agencies separate from their health departments. The number of USPHS commissioned officers with EPA has dropped precipitously in both absolute and relative amounts. Recent administrators have attempted to move EPA from legalistic command-and-control management strategies toward more of a partnership with stakeholders, including other federal and state agencies.
Particularly challenging for the future EPA is the increasing evidence of the linkage between ecosystem and human health. Relatively low levels of fine acidic particulates are the cause both of barren lakes through acid rain and increased mortality and morbidity in humans; endocrine disruptors affect reproductive endpoints in amphibians and in humans; and alterations in ecosystems caused by global climate changes alter human disease vectors. Another major challenge will be to apply legal definitions related to protection of susceptible populations to new information about more subtle susceptibility factors obtained through the unraveling of the human genome.
BERNARD D. GOLDSTEIN
(SEE ALSO: Acid Rain; Ambient Air Quality [Air Pollution]; Ambient Water Quality; Clean Air Act; Clean Water Act; Climate Change and Human Health; Ecosystems; Endocrine Disruptors; Hazardous Waste; Risk Assessment, Risk Management; Toxic Substances Control Act; United States Public Health Service [USPHS])
Environmental Protection Agency. About the EPA. Available at http://www.epa.gov.
Goldstein, B. D. (1988). "EPA as a Public Health Agency." Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology 8:32834.
Environmental Protection Agency (Encyclopedia of Business and Finance)
In December 1970, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was established as an independent agency. Reorganization Plan 3 of 1970 consolidated fifteen components from five agencies for the purpose of grouping all environmental regulatory activities under a single agency. Most of these functions were housed in the Department of the Interior, Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Health, Education and Welfare.
The purpose of the EPA is to ensure that all Americans and the environment in which they live are safe from health hazards. The EPA has a number of goals: clean air, clean and safe water, safe food, preventing and reducing pollution, water management and restoration of waste sites, redirection of international pollution, and credible deterrents to pollution. Also, the EPA engages in education about pollution and its environmental risks.
The first four goals deal with the immediate environment of people: clean air; clean and safe water; safe food; and preventing pollution and reducing risks in our environment. The remaining goals deal with education, the clean-up of existing pollution, and efforts in the global arena. They involve better water management, the reduction of cross-border environmental risks, the expansion of Americans' right to know about their environment, sound service, improved understanding of environmental risks, credible deterrents to pollution, and greater compliance with the law and effective management.
In addition to these goals, the EPA has adopted a number of principles to guide management in establishing priorities. These guidelines are to reduce environmental risks, to prevent pollution, to focus on children's health, to establish partners with local governments, to maximize public participation, to emphasize community based solutions, to work with Indian tribes, and to choose cost-effective solutions. The EPA also is engaged in ongoing educational programs, which emphasize the community's right to know about its environmental risks.
The EPA has to enforce fifteen or more statutes or laws, including the Clean Air Act; the Clean Water Act; the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act; the Endangered Species Act; the Pollution Prevention Act; and the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticides Act. The EPA also enforces other laws dealing with pollution and toxic substances.
The EPA has had some major successes since its inception. In the area of air quality: (1) More than half of the large cities now meet air-quality standards; (2) emissions of common air pollutants have dropped by an average of 24 percent; and (3) blood lead levels in children have declined by 75 percent. In the area of water quality: (1) 60 percent of the nation's waterways are safe for fishing and swimming; (2) ocean dumping has been banned; and (3) standards for wastewater have been established for fifty industries. In the area of toxic and pesticide management: (1) DDT has been banned; (2) safer pesticides have been introduced; and (3) toxic emissions have been reduced by 39 percent. Finally, the EPA has been able to set many standards covering a wide range of pollutants. More information is avail able from the EPA at 401 M Street SW, Washing ton, D.C. 20460-0003; (202)260-2090; or http://www.epa.gov.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). "EPA's Mission." Archived at: http://www.epa.gov/epahome. 1999.
EPA. "Frequently Asked Questions." Archived at: . 1999.
EPA. "Research Programs." Archived at: http://www.epa.gov/epahome. 1999.
EPA. "Twenty-Five Years of Environmental Progress at a Glance." Archived at: . 1999.