United States Environmental Protection Agency

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Environmental Protection Agency
Logo of the United States Environmental Protection Agency.svg
Seal of the Environmental Protection Agency
Flag of the United States Environmental Protection Agency.svg
Flag of the Environmental Protection Agency
Agency overview
FormedDecember 2, 1970;48 years ago (1970-12-02)
Headquarters William Jefferson Clinton Federal Building
Washington, D.C., U.S.
38°53′38″N77°01′44″W / 38.8939°N 77.0289°W / 38.8939; -77.0289 Coordinates: 38°53′38″N77°01′44″W / 38.8939°N 77.0289°W / 38.8939; -77.0289
Employees14,172 (2018) [1] [2]
Annual budget$8.1 billion (2018) [1]
Agency executives
Website www.epa.gov

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is an independent agency [ dubious ] of the United States federal government for environmental protection. [3] President Richard Nixon proposed the establishment of EPA on July 9, 1970 [4] and it began operation on December 2, 1970, after Nixon signed an executive order. The order establishing the EPA was ratified by committee hearings in the House and Senate. The agency is led by its Administrator, who is appointed by the President and approved by Congress. The current Administrator is former Deputy Administrator Andrew R. Wheeler, who had been acting administrator since July 2018. [5] The EPA is not a Cabinet department, but the Administrator is normally given cabinet rank.

Independent agencies of the United States federal government are agencies that exist outside the federal executive departments and the Executive Office of the President. In a more narrow sense, the term may also be used to describe agencies that, while constitutionally part of the executive branch, are independent of presidential control, usually because the president's power to dismiss the agency head or a member is limited.

Environmental protection The practice of protecting the environment

Environmental protection is the practice of protecting the natural environment by individuals, organisations and governments. Its objectives are to conserve natural resources and the existing natural environment and, where possible, to repair damage and reverse trends.

Richard Nixon 37th president of the United States

Richard Milhous Nixon was an American politician who served as the 37th president of the United States from 1969 until his resignation in 1974. The only president to resign from the office, he previously served as the nation's 36th vice president from 1953 to 1961, and as a representative and senator from California.


The EPA has its headquarters in Washington, D.C., regional offices for each of the agency's ten regions, and 27 laboratories. [6] The agency conducts environmental assessment, research, and education. It has the responsibility of maintaining and enforcing national standards under a variety of environmental laws, in consultation with state, tribal, and local governments. It delegates some permitting, monitoring, and enforcement responsibility to U.S. states and the federally recognized tribes. EPA enforcement powers include fines, sanctions, and other measures. The agency also works with industries and all levels of government in a wide variety of voluntary pollution prevention programs and energy conservation efforts.

Washington, D.C. Capital of the United States

Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington or D.C., is the capital of the United States. Founded after the American Revolution as the seat of government of the newly independent country, Washington was named after George Washington, the first president of the United States and a Founding Father. As the seat of the United States federal government and several international organizations, Washington is an important world political capital. The city, located on the Potomac River bordering Maryland and Virginia, is one of the most visited cities in the world, with more than 20 million tourists annually.

U.S. state constituent political entity of the United States

In the United States, a state is a constituent political entity, of which there are currently 50. Bound together in a political union, each state holds governmental jurisdiction over a separate and defined geographic territory and shares its sovereignty with the federal government. Due to this shared sovereignty, Americans are citizens both of the federal republic and of the state in which they reside. State citizenship and residency are flexible, and no government approval is required to move between states, except for persons restricted by certain types of court orders.

Sanctions, in law and legal definition, are penalties or other means of enforcement used to provide incentives for obedience with the law, or with rules and regulations. Criminal sanctions can take the form of serious punishment, such as corporal or capital punishment, incarceration, or severe fines. Within the civil law context, sanctions are usually monetary fines, levied against a party to a lawsuit or his/her attorney, for violating rules of procedure, or for abusing the judicial process. The most severe sanction in a civil lawsuit is the involuntary dismissal, with prejudice, of a complaining party's cause of action, or of the responding party's answer. This has the effect of deciding the entire action against the sanctioned party without recourse, except to the degree that an appeal or trial de novo may be allowed because of reversible error.

In 2018, the agency had 14,172 full-time employees. [7] More than half of EPA's employees are engineers, scientists, and environmental protection specialists; other employees include legal, public affairs, financial, and information technologists.

The Environmental Protection Agency can only act under statutes, which are the authority of laws passed by Congress. Congress must approve the statute and they also have the power to authorize or prohibit certain actions, which the EPA has to implement and enforce. Appropriations statutes authorize how much money the agency can spend each year to carry out the approved statutes. The Environmental Protection Agency has the power to issue regulations. A regulation is a standard or rule written by the agency to interpret the statute, apply it in situations and enforce it. Congress allows the EPA to write regulations in order to solve a problem, but the agency must include a rationale of why the regulations need to be implemented. The regulations can be challenged by the Courts, where the regulation is overruled or confirmed. Many public health and environmental groups advocate for the agency and believe that it is creating a better world. Other critics believe that the agency commits government overreach by adding unnecessary regulations on business and property owners. [8]


Stacks emitting smoke from burning discarded automobile batteries, photo taken in Houston in 1972 by Marc St. Gil [cs], official photographer of recently founded EPA BURNING DISCARDED AUTOMOBILE BATTERIES. (FROM THE SITES EXHIBITION. FOR OTHER IMAGES IN THIS ASSIGNMENT, SEE FICHE... - NARA - 553841.jpg
Stacks emitting smoke from burning discarded automobile batteries, photo taken in Houston in 1972 by Marc St. Gil  [ cs ], official photographer of recently founded EPA
Same smokestacks in 1975 after the plant was closed in a push for greater environmental protection SMOKESTACKS OF THE HOLMES ROAD INCINERATOR, NO LONGER POLLUTE THE ATMOSPHERE. THE PLANT PREVIOUSLY BURNED OLD... - NARA - 557411.jpg
Same smokestacks in 1975 after the plant was closed in a push for greater environmental protection

Beginning in the late 1950s and through the 1960s, Congress reacted to increasing public concern about the impact that human activity could have on the environment. [9] [10] [11] Senator James E. Murray introduced a bill, the Resources and Conservation Act (RCA) of 1959, in the 86th Congress. The 1962 publication of Silent Spring by Rachel Carson alerted the public about the detrimental effects on the environment of the indiscriminate use of pesticides. [12]

James E. Murray Canadian born American politician

James Edward Murray was a United States Senator from Montana, and a liberal leader of the Democratic Party. He served in the United States Senate from 1934 until 1961.

86th United States Congress 1959–1961 U.S. Congress

The Eighty-sixth United States Congress was a meeting of the legislative branch of the United States federal government, composed of the United States Senate and the United States House of Representatives. It met in Washington, D.C. from January 3, 1959, to January 3, 1961, during the last two years of the presidency of Dwight D. Eisenhower. The apportionment of seats in the House of Representatives was based on the Seventeenth Census of the United States in 1950. Both chambers had a Democratic majority. When Alaska and Hawaii were admitted as states in 1959, the membership of the House temporarily increased to 437 ; it would remain at 437 until reapportionment resulting from the 1960 census.

<i>Silent Spring</i> A book written by Rachel Carson about pesticides harming the environment.

Silent Spring is an environmental science book by Rachel Carson. The book was published on September 27, 1962, documenting the adverse environmental effects caused by the indiscriminate use of pesticides. Carson accused the chemical industry of spreading disinformation, and public officials of accepting the industry's marketing claims unquestioningly.

In the years following, similar bills were introduced and hearings were held to discuss the state of the environment and Congress's potential responses. In 1968, a joint House–Senate colloquium was convened by the chairmen of the Senate Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, Senator Henry M. Jackson, and the House Committee on Science and Astronautics, Representative George P. Miller, to discuss the need for and means of implementing a national environmental policy. In the colloquium, some members of Congress expressed a continuing concern over federal agency actions affecting the environment. [13]

Henry M. Jackson American politician (1912–1983)

Henry Martin "Scoop" Jackson was an American politician who served as a U.S. Representative (1941–1953) and U.S. Senator (1953–1983) from the state of Washington. A Cold War liberal and anti-Communist Democrat, Jackson supported higher military spending and a hard line against the Soviet Union, while also supporting social welfare programs, civil rights, and labor unions.

George P. Miller American politician

George Paul Miller was a U.S. Representative from California.

The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) [14] was modeled on the Resources and Conservation Act of 1959 (RCA). [15] RCA would have established a Council on Environmental Quality in the office of the President, declared a national environmental policy, and required the preparation of an annual environmental report. [16] [17] [18] [19]

President Nixon signed NEPA into law on January 1, 1970. The law created the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) in the Executive Office of the President. [9] [20] NEPA required that a detailed statement of environmental impacts be prepared for all major federal actions significantly affecting the environment. The "detailed statement" would ultimately be referred to as an environmental impact statement (EIS). [9]

Ruckelshaus sworn in as first EPA Administrator. William Ruckelshaus Swearing In as EPA Administrator.jpg
Ruckelshaus sworn in as first EPA Administrator.

On July 9, 1970, Nixon proposed an executive reorganization that consolidated many environmental responsibilities of the federal government under one agency, a new Environmental Protection Agency. [21] This proposal included merging antipollution programs from a number of departments, such as the combination of pesticide programs from the United States Department of Agriculture, Department of Interior, and U.S. Department of Interior. [22] After conducting hearings during that summer, the House and Senate approved the proposal. The EPA was created 90 days before it had to operate, [23] and officially opened its doors on December 2, 1970. The agency's first Administrator, William Ruckelshaus, took the oath of office on December 4, 1970. [11] In its first year, the EPA had a budget of $1.4 billion and 5,800 employees. [22] At its start, the EPA was primarily a technical assistance agency that set goals and standards. Soon, new acts and amendments passed by Congress gave the agency its regulatory authority. [24]

EPA staff recall that in the early days there was "an enormous sense of purpose and excitement" and the expectation that "there was this agency which was going to do something about a problem that clearly was on the minds of a lot of people in this country," leading to tens of thousands of resumes from those eager to participate in the mighty effort to clean up America's environment. [25]

When EPA first began operation, members of the private sector felt strongly that the environmental protection movement was a passing fad. Ruckelshaus stated that he felt pressure to show a public which was deeply skeptical about government's effectiveness, that EPA could respond effectively to widespread concerns about pollution. [26]

The burning Cuyahoga River in 1969 had led to a national outcry. In December 1970 a federal grand jury investigation led by U.S. Attorney Robert W. Jones began, of water pollution allegedly being caused by about 12 companies in northeastern Ohio. [27] It was the first grand jury investigation of water pollution in the area. The Attorney General of the United States, John N. Mitchell, gave a Press Conference December 18, 1970 referencing new pollution control litigation, with particular reference to work with the new Environmental Protection Agency, and announcing the filing of a law suit that morning against the Jones and Laughlin Steel Corporation for discharging substantial quantities of cyanide into the Cuyahoga River near Cleveland. [28] Jones filed the misdemeanor charges in District Court, alleging violations of the 1899 Rivers and Harbors Act. [29]

Partly based on such litigation experience, Congress enacted the Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1972, better known as the Clean Water Act. This act established a national framework for addressing water quality to be implemented by agency in partnership with the states. [30]

In 1972, Congress also amended the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, requiring the newly formed EPA to measure every pesticide's risks against its potential benefits. [31] Four years later, in October 1976, Congress passed the Toxic Substances Control Act, which like FIFRA related to commercial products rather than pollution. [32] This act gave the EPA the authority to gather information on chemicals and require producers to test them, gave it the ability to regulate chemical production and use (with specific mention of PCBs), and required the agency to create the National Inventory listing of chemicals. [32]

The same year, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act was passed, significantly amending the Solid Waste Disposal Act of 1965. It tasked the EPA with setting national goals for waste disposal, conserving energy and natural resources, reducing waste, and ensuring environmentally sound management of waste. Accordingly, the agency developed regulations for solid and hazardous waste that were to be implemented in collaboration with states. [33]

In 1980, Congress passed the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, nicknamed “Superfund,” which enabled the EPA to cast a wider net for parties responsible for sites contaminated by previous hazardous waste disposal (such as Love Canal) and established a funding mechanism for assessment and cleanup. [34]

In April 1986, when the Chernobyl disaster occurred, the EPA was tasked with identifying any impacts on the United States and keeping the public informed. Administrator Lee Thomas assembled a cross-agency team, including personnel from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Department of Energy to monitor the situation. They held press conferences for 10 days. [35] This same year, Congress passed the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act, which authorized the EPA to gather data on toxic chemicals and share this information with the public. [32]

The EPA also researched the implications of stratospheric ozone depletion. Under the leadership of Administrator Lee Thomas, the EPA joined with several international organizations to perform a risk assessment of stratospheric ozone, [36] which helped provide motivation for the Montreal Protocol, which was agreed to in August 1987.

In 1988, during his first presidential campaign, George H. W. Bush was vocal about environmental issues. He appointed as his EPA administrator William K. Reilly, an environmentalist. Under Reilly's leadership, the EPA implemented voluntary programs and a cluster rule for multimedia regulation. At the time, the environment was increasingly being recognized as a regional issue, which was reflected in 1990 amendment of the Clean Air Act and new approaches by the agency. [37] [38]


The EPA is led by an Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. From February 2017 to July 2018, Scott Pruitt served as the 14th Administrator. The current administrator is former Deputy Administrator Andrew R. Wheeler.



The administrative regions of the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Regions of the United States EPA.svg
The administrative regions of the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

Creating 10 EPA regions was an initiative that came from President Richard Nixon. [54] See Standard Federal Regions.

Each EPA regional office is responsible within its states for implementing the Agency's programs, except those programs that have been specifically delegated to states.

Each regional office also implements programs on Indian Tribal lands, except those programs delegated to tribal authorities.

EPA has principal implementation authority for the following federal environmental laws:

There are additional laws where EPA has a contributing role or provides assistance to other agencies. Among these laws are:


A bulldozer piles boulders in an attempt to prevent lake shore erosion, 1973 (photograph by Paul Sequeira, photojournalist and contributing photographer to the Environmental Protection Agency's DOCUMERICA project in the early 1970s) A BULLDOZER PILES BOULDERS IN AN ATTEMPT TO PREVENT LAKE SHORE EROSION - NARA - 547031.jpg
A bulldozer piles boulders in an attempt to prevent lake shore erosion, 1973 (photograph by Paul Sequeira, photojournalist and contributing photographer to the Environmental Protection Agency's DOCUMERICA project in the early 1970s)

It is worth noting that, in looking back in 2013 on the agency he helped shape from the beginning, Administrator William Ruckelshaus observed that a danger for EPA was that air, water, waste and other programs would be unconnected, placed in "silos," a problem that persists more than 50 years later, albeit less so than at the start. [56]

Fuel Economy

The testing system was originally developed in 1972 and used driving cycles designed to simulate driving during rush-hour in Los Angeles during that era. Until 1984 the EPA reported the exact fuel economy figures calculated from the test. [ citation needed ] In 1984, the EPA began adjusting city (aka Urban Dynamometer Driving Schedule or UDDS) results downward by 10% and highway (aka HighWay Fuel Economy Test or HWFET) results by 22% to compensate for changes in driving conditions since 1972, and to better correlate the EPA test results with real-world driving. In 1996, the EPA proposed updating the Federal Testing Procedures [81] to add a new higher-speed test (US06) and an air-conditioner-on test (SC03) to further improve the correlation of fuel economy and emission estimates with real-world reports. In December 2006 the updated testing methodology was finalized to be implemented in model year 2008 vehicles and set the precedent of a 12-year review cycle for the test procedures. [82]

In February 2005, EPA launched a program called "Your MPG" that allows drivers to add real-world fuel economy statistics into a database on the EPA's fuel economy website and compare them with others and with the original EPA test results. [83]

The EPA conducts fuel economy tests on very few vehicles. "Just 18 of the EPA's 17,000 employees work in the automobile-testing department in Ann Arbor, Michigan, examining 200 to 250 vehicles a year, or roughly 15 percent of new models. As to that other 85 percent, the EPA takes automakers at their word—without any testing-accepting submitted results as accurate." [84] Two-thirds of the vehicles the EPA tests themselves are randomly selected and the remaining third is tested for specific reasons.

Although originally created as a reference point for fossil-fueled vehicles, driving cycles have been used for estimating how many miles an electric vehicle will get on a single charge. [85]

National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System

The National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit program addresses water pollution by regulating point sources which discharge to US waters. Created in 1972 by the Clean Water Act, the NPDES permit program authorizes state governments to perform its many permitting, administrative, and enforcement aspects. [86] As of 2018, EPA has approved 47 states to administer all or portions of the permit program. [87] EPA regional offices manage the program in the remaining areas of the country. [86] The Water Quality Act of 1987 extended NPDES permit coverage to industrial stormwater dischargers and municipal separate storm sewer systems. [88] In 2016, there were 6,700 major point source NPDES permits in place and 109,000 municipal and industrial point sources with general or individual permits. [30]

Radiation Protection

EPA has the following seven project groups to protect the public from radiation. [89]

  1. Radioactive Waste Management [90]
  2. Emergency Preparedness and Response Programs [91] Protective Action Guides And Planning Guidance for Radiological Incidents: EPA developed a manual as guideline for local and state governments to protect the public from a nuclear accident, [92] the 2017 version being a 15-year update.
  3. EPA's Role in Emergency Response – Special Teams [93]
  4. Technologically Enhanced Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials (TENORM) Program [94]
  5. Radiation Standards for Air and Drinking Water Programs [95]
  6. Federal Guidance for Radiation Protection [96]

Past programs

OSV Bold docked at Port Canaveral, Florida OSV Bold.jpg
OSV Bold docked at Port Canaveral, Florida

Controversies (1983–present)

EPA headquarters in Washington, D.C. EPA HQ - WJ Clinton Building - Main entrance - 2018a.jpg
EPA headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Fiscal mismanagement, 1983

In 1982 Congress charged that the EPA had mishandled the $1.6 billion program to clean up hazardous waste dumps Superfund and demanded records from EPA director Anne M. Gorsuch. She refused and became the first agency director in U.S. history to be cited for contempt of Congress. The EPA turned the documents over to Congress several months later, after the White House abandoned its court claim that the documents could not be subpoenaed by Congress because they were covered by executive privilege. At that point, Gorsuch resigned her post, citing pressures caused by the media and the congressional investigation. [102] Critics charged that the EPA was in a shambles at that time. [103] When Lee Thomas came to the agency in 1983 as Acting Assistant Administrator of the Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, shortly before Gorsuch's resignation, six congressional committees were investigating the Superfund program. There were also two FBI agents performing an investigation for the Justice Department into possible destruction of documents. [104]

Gorsuch, appointed by Ronald Reagan, resigned under fire in 1983. Gorsuch based her administration of the EPA on the New Federalism approach of downsizing federal agencies by delegating their functions and services to the individual states. [105] She believed that the EPA was over-regulating business and that the agency was too large and not cost-effective. During her 22 months as agency head, she cut the budget of the EPA by 22%, reduced the number of cases filed against polluters, relaxed Clean Air Act regulations, and facilitated the spraying of restricted-use pesticides. She cut the total number of agency employees, and hired staff from the industries they were supposed to be regulating. [106] Environmentalists contended that her policies were designed to placate polluters, and accused her of trying to dismantle the agency. [107]

TSCA and confidential business information, 1994 (or earlier)–present

TSCA enables the EPA to require industry to conduct testing of chemicals, but the agency must balance this with obligations to provide information to the public and ensure the protection of trade secrets and confidential business information (the legal term for proprietary information). Arising issues and problems from these overlapping obligations have been the subject of multiple critical reports by the Government Accountability Office. How much information the agency should have access to from industry, how much it should keep confidential, and how much it should reveal to the public is still contested. For example, according to TSCA, state officials are not allowed access to confidential business information collected by the EPA. [32]

Political pressure and scientific integrity, 2001–present

In April 2008, the Union of Concerned Scientists said that more than half of the nearly 1,600 EPA staff scientists who responded online to a detailed questionnaire reported they had experienced incidents of political interference in their work. The survey included chemists, toxicologists, engineers, geologists and experts in other fields of science. About 40% of the scientists reported that the interference had been more prevalent in the last five years than in previous years. The highest number of complaints came from scientists who were involved in determining the risks of cancer by chemicals used in food and other aspects of everyday life. [108]

EPA research has also been suppressed by career managers. [109] Supervisors at EPA's National Center for Environmental Assessment required several paragraphs to be deleted from a peer-reviewed journal article about EPA's integrated risk information system, which led two co-authors to have their names removed from the publication, and the corresponding author, Ching-Hung Hsu, to leave EPA "because of the draconian restrictions placed on publishing". [110] EPA subjects employees who author scientific papers to prior restraint, even if those papers are written on personal time. [111]

EPA employees have reported difficulty in conducting and reporting the results of studies on hydraulic fracturing due to industry [112] [113] [114] and governmental pressure, and are concerned about the censorship of environmental reports. [112] [115] [116]

In February 2017, U.S. Representative Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) sponsored H.R. 861, a bill [117] to abolish the EPA by 2018. According to Gaetz, "The American people are drowning in rules and regulation promulgated by unelected bureaucrats. And the Environmental Protection Agency has become an extraordinary offender." The bill was co-sponsored by Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), Steven Palazzo (R-Ms.) and Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.). [118]

Fuel economy, 2005–2010

In July 2005, an EPA report showing that auto companies were using loopholes to produce less fuel-efficient cars was delayed. The report was supposed to be released the day before a controversial energy bill was passed and would have provided backup for those opposed to it, but the EPA delayed its release at the last minute. [119]

In 2007, the state of California sued the EPA for its refusal to allow California and 16 other states to raise fuel economy standards for new cars. [120] EPA administrator Stephen L. Johnson claimed that the EPA was working on its own standards, but the move has been widely considered an attempt to shield the auto industry from environmental regulation by setting lower standards at the federal level, which would then preempt state laws. [121] [122] [123] California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, along with governors from 13 other states, stated that the EPA's actions ignored federal law, and that existing California standards (adopted by many states in addition to California) were almost twice as effective as the proposed federal standards. [124] It was reported that Stephen Johnson ignored his own staff in making this decision. [125]

After the federal government had bailed out General Motors and Chrysler in the Automotive industry crisis of 2008–2010, the 2010 Chevrolet Equinox was released with an EPA fuel economy rating abnormally higher than its competitors. Independent road tests [126] [127] [128] [129] found that the vehicle did not out-perform its competitors, which had much lower fuel economy ratings. Later road tests found better, but inconclusive, results. [130] [131]

Mercury emissions, 2005

In March 2005, nine states (California, New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Maine, Connecticut, New Mexico and Vermont) sued the EPA. The EPA's Inspector General had determined that the EPA's regulation of mercury emissions did not follow the Clean Air Act, and that the regulations were influenced by top political appointees. [132] [133] The EPA had suppressed a study it commissioned by Harvard University which contradicted its position on mercury controls. [134] The suit alleged that the EPA's rule exempting coal-fired power plants from "maximum available control technology" was illegal, and additionally charged that the EPA's system of cap-and-trade to lower average mercury levels would allow power plants to forego reducing mercury emissions, which they objected would lead to dangerous local hotspots of mercury contamination even if average levels declined. [135] Several states also began to enact their own mercury emission regulations. Illinois's proposed rule would have reduced mercury emissions from power plants by an average of 90% by 2009. [136] In 2008—by which point a total of fourteen states had joined the suit—the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that the EPA regulations violated the Clean Air Act. [137]

In response, EPA announced plans to propose such standards to replace the vacated Clean Air Mercury Rule, and did so on March 16, 2011. [138]

Climate change, 2007–2017

In December 2007, EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson approved a draft of a document that declared that climate change imperiled the public welfare—a decision that would trigger the first national mandatory global-warming regulations. Associate Deputy Administrator Jason Burnett e-mailed the draft to the White House. White House aides—who had long resisted mandatory regulations as a way to address climate change—knew the gist of what Johnson's finding would be, Burnett said. They also knew that once they opened the attachment, it would become a public record, making it controversial and difficult to rescind. So they did not open it; rather, they called Johnson and asked him to take back the draft. Johnson rescinded the draft; in July 2008, he issued a new version which did not state that global warming was danger to public welfare. Burnett resigned in protest. [139]

A $3 million mapping study on sea level rise was suppressed by EPA management during both the Bush and Obama Administrations, and managers changed a key interagency report to reflect the removal of the maps. [140]

On April 28, 2017, multiple climate change subdomains at EPA.gov began redirecting to a notice stating "this page is being updated." [141] The EPA issued a statement announcing the overhaul of its website to "reflect the agency's new direction under President Donald Trump and Administrator Scott Pruitt." [142] The removed EPA climate change domains included extensive information on the EPA's work to mitigate climate change, as well as details of data collection efforts and indicators for climate change. [143]

Gold King Mine waste water spill, 2015

In August 2015, the 2015 Gold King Mine waste water spill occurred when EPA contractors examined the level of pollutants such as lead and arsenic in a Colorado mine, [144] and accidentally released over three million gallons of waste water into Cement Creek and the Animas River. [145]

Collusion with Monsanto chemical company

In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a branch of the World Health Organization, cited research linking glyphosate, an ingredient of the weed killer Roundup manufactured by the chemical company Monsanto, to non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. In March 2017, the presiding judge in a litigation brought about by people who claim to have developed glyphosate-related non-Hodgkin's lymphoma opened Monsanto emails and other documents related to the case, including email exchanges between the company and federal regulators. According to an article in The New York Times , the "records suggested that Monsanto had ghostwritten research that was later attributed to academics and indicated that a senior official at the Environmental Protection Agency had worked to quash a review of Roundup’s main ingredient, glyphosate, that was to have been conducted by the United States Department of Health and Human Services." The records show that Monsanto was able to prepare "a public relations assault" on the finding after they were alerted to the determination by Jess Rowland, the head of the EPA's cancer assessment review committee at that time, months in advance. Emails also showed that Rowland "had promised to beat back an effort by the Department of Health and Human Services to conduct its own review." [146] [147] [148]

Chief Scott Pruitt, 2017

On February 17, 2017, Scott Pruitt was selected Administrator of the EPA by president Donald Trump. This was a seemingly controversial move, as Pruitt had spent most of his career countering environmental policy. He did not have previous experience in the field and had received financial support from the fossil fuel industry. [149] In 2017 the Trump administration proposed a 31% cut to the EPA's budget to $5.7 billion from $8.1 billion and to eliminate a quarter of the agency jobs. [150] However, this cut was not approved by Congress. [38]

Pruitt resigned from the position on July 5, 2018, citing "unrelenting attacks" due to ongoing ethics controversies. [151]

Environmental justice

The EPA has been criticized for its lack of progress towards environmental justice. Administrator Christine Todd Whitman was criticized for her changes to President Bill Clinton's Executive Order 12898 during 2001, removing the requirements for government agencies to take the poor and minority populations into special consideration when making changes to environmental legislation, and therefore defeating the spirit of the Executive Order. [152] In a March 2004 report, the inspector general of the agency concluded that the EPA "has not developed a clear vision or a comprehensive strategic plan, and has not established values, goals, expectations, and performance measurements" for environmental justice in its daily operations. Another report in September 2006 found the agency still had failed to review the success of its programs, policies and activities towards environmental justice. [153] Studies have also found that poor and minority populations were underserved by the EPA's Superfund program, and that this situation was worsening. [152]

Barriers to enforcing environmental justice

Many environmental justice issues are local, and therefore difficult to address by a federal agency, such as the EPA. Without strong media attention, political interest, or 'crisis' status, local issues are less likely to be addressed at the federal level compared to larger, well publicized incidents.

Conflicting political powers in successive administrations: The White House maintains direct control over the EPA, and its enforcements are subject to the political agenda of who is in power. Republicans and Democrats differ in their approaches to environmental justice. While President Bill Clinton signed the executive order 12898, the Bush administration did not develop a clear plan or establish goals for integrating environmental justice into everyday practices, affecting the motivation for environmental enforcement. [154] [ page needed ]

The EPA is responsible for preventing and detecting environmental crimes, informing the public of environmental enforcement, and setting and monitoring standards of air pollution, water pollution, hazardous wastes and chemicals. "It is difficult to construct a specific mission statement given its wide range of responsibilities." [155] [ page needed ] It is impossible to address every environmental crime adequately or efficiently if there is no specific mission statement to refer to. The EPA answers to various groups, competes for resources, and confronts a wide array of harms to the environment. All of these present challenges, including a lack of resources, its self-policing policy, and a broadly defined legislation that creates too much discretion for EPA officers. [156] [ page needed ]

The EPA "does not have the authority or resources to address injustices without an increase in federal mandates" requiring private industries to consider the environmental ramifications of their activities. [157]

Freedom of Information Act processing performance

In the latest Center for Effective Government analysis of 15 federal agencies which receive the most Freedom of Information Act FOIA requests, published in 2015 (using 2012 and 2013 data, the most recent years available), the EPA earned a D by scoring 67 out of a possible 100 points, i.e. did not earn a satisfactory overall grade. [158]

Scientific integrity official barred from Congressional hearing

On July 17, 2019 the top scientific integrity official from the EPA, Francesca Grifo, was not permitted to testify by the EPA in front of a House committee hearing. The EPA offered to send a different representative in place of Grifo and accused the committee of "dictating to the agency who they believe was qualified to speak." The hearing was to discuss the importance of allowing federal scientists and other employees to speak freely when and to whom they want to about their research without having to worry about any political consequences. [159]

See also

Further reading

Related Research Articles

Industrial waste is the waste produced by industrial activity which includes any material that is rendered useless during a manufacturing process such as that of factories, industries, mills, and mining operations. Types of industrial waste include dirt and gravel, masonry and concrete, scrap metal, oil, solvents, chemicals, scrap lumber, even vegetable matter from restaurants. Industrial waste may be solid, liquid or gaseous. It may be hazardous or non-hazardous waste. Hazardous waste may be toxic, ignitable, corrosive, reactive, or radioactive. Industrial waste may pollute the air, the soil, or nearby water sources, eventually ending up in the sea. Industrial waste is often mixed into municipal waste, making accurate assessments difficult. An estimate for the US goes as high as 7.6 billion tons of industrial waste produced every year. Most countries have enacted legislation to deal with the problem of industrial waste, but strictness and compliance regimes vary. Enforcement is always an issue.

Superfund United States federal law designed to clean up sites contaminated with hazardous substances

Superfund is a United States federal government program designed to fund the cleanup of sites contaminated with hazardous substances and pollutants. Sites managed under this program are referred to as "Superfund" sites. It was established as the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA). It authorizes federal natural resource agencies, primarily the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), states and Native American tribes to recover natural resource damages caused by hazardous substances, though most states have and most often use their own versions of CERCLA. CERCLA created the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). The EPA may identify parties responsible for hazardous substances releases to the environment (polluters) and either compel them to clean up the sites, or it may undertake the cleanup on its own using the Superfund and costs recovered from polluters by referring to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Resource Conservation and Recovery Act Principal federal law in the United States governing the disposal of solid waste and hazardous waste

The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), enacted in 1976, is the principal federal law in the United States governing the disposal of solid waste and hazardous waste.

Clean Water Act Primary federal law in the United States governing water pollution

The Clean Water Act (CWA) is the primary federal law in the United States governing water pollution. Its objective is to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the nation's waters; recognizing the responsibilities of the states in addressing pollution and providing assistance to states to do so, including funding for publicly owned treatment works for the improvement of wastewater treatment; and maintaining the integrity of wetlands. It is one of the United States' first and most influential modern environmental laws. As with many other major U.S. federal environmental statutes, it is administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in coordination with state governments. Its implementing regulations are codified at 40 C.F.R. Subchapters D, N, and O.

United States environmental law

United States environmental law concerns legal standards to protect human health and improve the natural environment of the United States. While subject to criticism at home and abroad on issues of protection, enforcement, and over-regulation, the country remains an important source of environmental legal expertise and experience.

Safe Drinking Water Act Principal federal law in the United States intended to ensure safe drinking water for the public

The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) is the principal federal law in the United States intended to ensure safe drinking water for the public. Pursuant to the act, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is required to set standards for drinking water quality and oversee all states, localities, and water suppliers that implement the standards.

Illinois Environmental Protection Agency

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency of the state of Illinois is the primary body concerned with the protection of the environment for the state. The Illinois EPA's mission is "to safeguard environmental quality, consistent with the social and economic needs of the State, so as to protect health, welfare, property and the quality of life."

Title 40 is a part of the United States Code of Federal Regulations. Title 40 arranges mainly environmental regulations that were promulgated by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), based on the provisions of United States laws. Parts of the regulation may be updated annually on July 1.

In the United States, several federal agencies and laws have some jurisdiction over pollution from ships in U.S. waters. States and local government agencies also have responsibilities for ship-related pollution in some situations.

The environmental policy of the United States is a federal governmental action to regulate activities that have an environmental impact in the United States. The goal of environmental policy is to protect the environment for future generations while interfering as little as possible with the efficiency of commerce or the liberty of the people and to limit inequity in who is burdened with environmental costs. As his first official act bringing in the 1970s, President Richard Nixon signed the U.S. National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) into law on New Years Day, 1970. Also in the same year, America starts to celebrate the first earth day, which is "the big bang of U.S. environmental politics, launching the country on a sweeping social learning curve about ecological management never before experienced or attempted in any other nation"(RosenBaum, 2016, p. 9). NEPA established a comprehensive US national environmental policy and created the requirement to prepare an environmental impact statement for “major federal actions significantly affecting the quality of the environment.” Eccleston has called NEPA, the world's “environmental Magna Carta”.

Clean Air Act (United States) United States federal law designed to control air pollution on a national level

The Clean Air Act of 1963 is a United States federal law designed to control air pollution on a national level. It is one of the United States' first and most influential modern environmental laws, and one of the most comprehensive air quality laws in the world. As with many other major U.S. federal environmental statutes, it is administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in coordination with state, local, and tribal governments. Its implementing regulations are codified at 40 C.F.R. Sub-chapter C, Parts 50-97.

To protect the environment from the adverse effects of pollution, many nations worldwide have enacted legislation to regulate various types of pollution as well as to mitigate the adverse effects of pollution.

Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance

The Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA) is the law enforcement arm of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It is made up of attorneys, special agents, scientists and other employees.

Guam Environmental Protection Agency Environmental Protection Agency

The Guam Environmental Protection Agency is a government agency of the United States territory of Guam.

Local government officials are outraged by unfunded mandates–regulations imposed from Washington but paid for locally. For example, Montanans must clean up the naturally-occurring arsenic in the Madison River because arsenic levels coming from geysers in Yellowstone Park exceed national standards. Yet, according to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates, a person would have to consume two liters of untreated water from the source and eat 6.5 grams of fish every day for 70 years to increase his or her risk of cancer by 1 in 10,000. Towns such as Aspen, Colorado, and Triumph, Idaho, are locked in an unending battle with the EPA because it claims that hazardous waste sites must be cleaned up even though the communities do not feel the risks warrant the disruptions . Federal regulations to protect endangered species and wetlands have forced property owners to stop farming, logging, and building on their property . Costs of complying with national environmental regulations have risen from $53 billion in 1980 to over $150 billion today, a figure representing 2 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product. Recognizing the excesses, Washington officials have attempted to address them through a “reinventing government” program. This has failed to downsize government or reduce regulations. Just the opposite has occurred, in fact. Since 1993, the number of regulations proposed or issued by the Environmental Protection Agency has increased by 20 percent, as indicated in Figure 1, from a paper published by the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Of the 430 regulations in the “pipeline” in April 1996, 46 are expected to cost business at least $100 million annually. Only nine are receiving scrutiny under the “reinventing government” agenda. Hence, 37 regulations will have an economic impact in excess of $3.7 billion per year.

Exemptions for hydraulic fracturing under United States federal law

There are many exemptions for hydraulic fracturing under United States federal law: the oil and gas industries are exempt or excluded from certain sections of a number of the major federal environmental laws. These laws range from protecting clean water and air, to preventing the release of toxic substances and chemicals into the environment: the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, National Environmental Policy Act, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act, and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, commonly known as Superfund.

Water in Arkansas is an important issue encompassing the conservation, protection, management, distribution and use of the water resource in the state. Arkansas contains a mixture of groundwater and surface water, with a variety of state and federal agencies responsible for the regulation of the water resource. In accordance with agency rules, state, and federal law, the state's water treatment facilities utilize engineering, chemistry, science and technology to treat raw water from the environment to potable water standards and distribute it through water mains to homes, farms, business and industrial customers. Following use, wastewater is collected in collection and conveyance systems, decentralized sewer systems or septic tanks and treated in accordance with regulations at publicly owned treatment works (POTWs) before being discharged to the environment.

The Clean Water Rule is a 2015 regulation published by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to clarify water resource management in the United States under a provision of the Clean Water Act of 1972. The regulation defined the scope of federal water protection in a more consistent manner, particularly over streams and wetlands which have a significant hydrological and ecological connection to traditional navigable waters, interstate waters, and territorial seas. It is also referred to as the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, which defines all bodies of water that fall under U.S. federal jurisdiction. The rule was published in response to concerns about lack of clarity over its scope from legislators at multiple levels, industry members, researchers and other science professionals, activists, and citizens.

The Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health Act of 2000, or BEACH Act, is a United States federal statute that sets national standards for recreational water testing and authorizes grants to pay for beach monitoring programs at state and federal levels. The Act was signed by President Bill Clinton on October 10, 2000. The law amends the Clean Water Act and requires the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to set standard criteria for testing, monitoring, and notifying the public of possible pollution within coastal recreational waters. Water pollution levels are required to be monitored regularly for bacteria, such as Escherichia coli (E.coli), and other pathogen indicators. Agencies at local, state, and federal levels report and monitor the levels and post warning signs as necessary.

Emmell's Septic Landfill (ESL) is located at 128 Zurich Ave, Galloway Township, New Jersey and takes up about 38 acres of space. The landfill was in operation from 1967 until 1979. ESL disposed of liquid and solid waste including many chemicals such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs), Trichloroethene and Vinyl chloride which all had their own effect on the environment and community. These chemicals affected the groundwater required millions of dollars to reconstruct the groundwater pathways and provide clean water to residents. The landfill holds a Hazardous Ranking Score of a 50/100, qualifying for the Superfund National Priority List. In August 1999, the state acknowledged the site's contamination and held town meetings and provided research upon the site such as groundwater samples. In July 1997, a sitewide investigation was called upon by the United States Environmental Protection Agency. In total the clean up was estimated to cost $5 million to fund this superfund site, and a grant of $3.9 million was given by the Federal Government under the Recovery Act Funding (Previti). Today, the project is still ongoing however, greatly improved since the landfill was discovered.


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