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EPA Celebrates 40 Years of Environmental Protection

By December 2, 2010

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Forty years ago today, on December 2, 1970, the newly created U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) opened its doors in downtown Washington, D.C., for the first time.

Growing public concern about the state of the environment, reinforced by the first Earth Day celebration in April 1970, had led President Richard M. Nixon to call on Congress to reorganize the federal government's approach to the environment by "pulling together into one agency a variety of research, monitoring, standard-setting and enforcement activities now scattered through several departments and agencies."

"Our national government today is not structured to make a coordinated attack on the pollutants which debase the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the land that grows our food," Nixon wrote in his special message to Congress, which he transmitted in July 1970. "Indeed, the present governmental structure for dealing with environmental pollution often defies effective and concerted action.

"Despite its complexity, for pollution control purposes the environment must be perceived as a single, interrelated system," Nixon continued. "Present assignments of departmental responsibilities do not reflect this interrelatedness."

Today, the EPA's mission is to protect human health and to safeguard the natural environment--air, water and land--upon which life depends.

The EPA's effectiveness in achieving its mission is often heavily influenced by whoever occupies The White House and who the president has appointed as EPA administrator, but overall the EPA has been a powerful force for environmental protection, public health and improving the quality of life for all Americans during the past 40 years.

The Aspen Institute, an international nonprofit organization, recently published a report [pdf] that details 10 ways the EPA has strengthened America over the past 40 years. Those accomplishments include:

  • Banning the widespread use of DDT
  • Removing the acid from acid rain
  • Rethinking waste as materials (drawing energy from waste streams and reusing materials to get more value from them before their final disposal)
  • Removing lead from gasoline--and from the air
  • Clearing secondhand smoke (by classifying secondhand smoke as a known cause of cancer in humans, and banning smoking in indoor public spaces)
  • Increasing vehicle efficiency and controlling emissions
  • Working for environmental justice and a cleaner environment for all Americans
  • Controlling toxic substances
  • Achieving cleaner water
  • Enforcing community right-to-know laws and improving public information about the chemicals
    and/or pollutants to which Americans may be exposed in their daily lives

In addition to those achievements, the EPA has emerged as America's best hope of reducing greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming. While Congress dithered over whether to pass a climate bill that would actually make a difference, the EPA declared six greenhouse gases a danger to public health and welfare and determined they were subject to regulation under the Clean Air Act.

"Over its 40-year history, EPA has evolved into the world's preeminent environmental regulatory agency through a balanced, three-pronged strategy, combining excellent science, regulatory enforcement, and engagement of all stakeholders in developing new solutions to environmental problems," said Aspen Institute President and CEO Walter Isaacson as he unveiled the report. "EPA's balanced, multifaceted structure and operation sets the standard around the world for applying strong science, as well as economic incentives and disincentives, to achieve positive environmental outcomes while allowing businesses to grow and prosper."

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Comments

December 2, 2010 at 5:42 pm
(1) edge says:

Yea, the EPA is soo good that they chased all the manufacturing jobs to China. Thanks for nothing. Slightly cleaner air and water but nobody working.

December 2, 2010 at 10:16 pm
(2) harleyrider1978 says:

A federal Judge by the name of osteen got a case dropped in his lap in North Carolina,the case was that of EPA’S study on second hand smoke/environmental tobacco smoke.The judge an anti-tobbaco judge by reputation spent 4 years going thru the study and interviewing scientists at EPA and came to the conclusion :

JUNK SCIENCE

”EPA’s 1992 conclusions are not supported by reliable scientific evidence. The report has been largely discredited and, in 1998, was legally vacated by a federal judge.Before its 1992 report, EPA had always used epidemiology’s gold standard CI of 95 percent to measure statistical significance. But because the U.S. studies chosen[cherry picked] for the report were not statistically significant within a 95 percent CI, for the first time in its history EPA changed the rules and used a 90 percent CI, which doubled the chance of being wrong.

This allowed it to report a statistically significant 19 percent increase [a 1.19rr] of lung cancer cases in the nonsmoking spouses of smokers over those cases found in nonsmoking spouses of nonsmokers. Even though the RR was only 1.19–an amount far short of what is normally required to demonstrate correlation or causality–the agency concluded this was proof SHS increased the risk of U.S. nonsmokers developing lung cancer by 19 percent.”

December 2, 2010 at 10:17 pm
(3) harleyrider1978 says:

The EPA fought to have Osteen’s decision overturned on technical grounds, ignoring the multitude of facts in the decision. They succeeded in 2002 on the narrowest of technicalities. The fourth circuit court of appeals ruled that because the report was not an official policy document Osteen’s court did not have jurisdiction. In their appeal the EPA did not answer a single criticism in the 92 page report, nor challenge a single fact put forth by Judge Osteen. Not one.

Although the anti-smoker movement was already established, this report was used, and continues to be used, to bolster their claim that SHS is a killer.
http://knol.google.com/k/second-hand-smoke #

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