ESTABLISHED THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY?
April 19, 2009
expect great things from President Barack Obama. Strengthening the protection
of endangered species, more support for national parks, and tighter controls
on air pollution and water contamination are but a few of the hoped-for
changes. Some people equate such changes with a particular political bent.
Those who do might find it ironic that several of our nation's most dramatic
strides to ensure environmental health were made by President Richard
10, 1970, Nixon made a pledge "to repair the [environmental] damage
already done and to establish new criteria to guide us in the future."
On April 29 of that year Nixon received a memo that said in part, "This
memorandum deals with the organization of anti-pollution programs. The
President's Advisory Council on Executive Organization recommends that
key anti-pollution programs be merged into an Environmental Protection
Administration, a new independent agency of the Executive Branch."
Nixon then took action. The EPA was the principal instrument for fulfilling
of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is "to protect human
health and to safeguard the natural environment--air, water, and land--upon
which life depends." Citizens of any country, whether they consider
themselves conservative or liberal, should be in favor of such a program.
Many corporations have taken notice of the EPA, and not always in an approving
and enthusiastic manner. But the EPA's contributions far outweigh any
bad press about being too political, too stringent, or just plain ornery.
beginning, the EPA's national goals of protecting public health and the
environment included reducing air pollution, ensuring safe drinking water,
protecting citizens (especially children) from health threats posed by
pesticide residues, and promoting the health of natural communities and
the quality of life in the nation. If you know people who think these
are not good ideas, I hope they live in another country.
was established as an independent agency of the U.S. government on December
2, 1970. The first EPA administrator, William D. Ruckelshaus, was sworn
in on December 4, 1970. The date should be registered as one of the most
important environmental milestones of the 20th century. Yet some have
asked what the EPA has really done aside from making a bunch of rules
and regulations that slowed so-called progress. Their record within the
first decade of their formation speaks to their effectiveness.
1972, a decade after the publication of Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring."
That year the EPA banned the widely used pesticide DDT because it was
found to cause cancer and was accumulating in the food chain of native
animals. The risks posed to public health and the environment had been
identified earlier, but finally an agency that could and would do something
about it had emerged. As far as I'm concerned, that step alone would have
made the agency worthwhile.
EPA began the ban to phase out all lead in gasoline, resulting in a 98%
reduction in lead levels in the air. The hazards of lead in the environment,
not just to wildlife but also to humans, were unequivocal. The ban was
essential to our well-being. In the same year the EPA initiated programs
to limit factory discharges of pollution into waterways, a program that
now holds industrial facilities accountable for water pollution. Not a
the EPA joined other federal agencies in banning the use of chlorofluorocarbons
(CFCs) as a propellant in most aerosol cans. CFCs destroy the earth's
ozone layer, the barrier to harmful ultraviolet rays. Practically everyone
agrees that the ban was a good thing. And in 1979 the EPA banned two herbicides
(one was an ingredient in the defoliant Agent Orange used in Vietnam)
containing dioxins, chemical compounds that are byproducts of certain
industrial activities that cause cancer.
been controversial EPA rulings over the years? Yes. But overall the EPA
has compiled an enviable record. And liberals, moderates, conservatives,
radicals, and reactionaries, people of whatever political stripe and those
who are totally apolitical are all better off because the Nixon administration
created the Environmental Protection Agency.
you have an environmental question or comment, email