Introduction and History of EPA
The United States environmental agency is at times referred to as USEPA or EPA. It is a federal government agency in the United States established for the purposes of environment and human health protection. It does all these through regulations it has written and enforced. The establishment of EPA was proposed by President Richard Nixon. The agency began being operational in December, 1970 after the president signed the executive order (Wisman, 1985). It had been ratified by House committee hearings and senate. The administrator leads the agency and is appointed by the president following approval by Congress. Currently, its administrator is Scott Pruitt.
The headquarters of EPA are in Washington, D.C. The agency is tasked with assessment of the environment, education and research. Among its other responsibilities is maintenance and enforcement of national standards through environment laws after consultations with the state, local and tribal governments (McCarthy, 2016). The agency has some enforcement powers like sanctions, fines, and many other measures. It also allies with industries and all government levels to protect the environment and efforts to conserve the energy.
The agency had over 15,000 employees as at 2016. Over half the numbers are scientists, engineers, and specialists in environment protection (McCarthy, 2016). The other employees include public affairs, legal, financial, and technologists in information. Trump administration is in the process of cutting 31% of their budget form 8.1 billion dollars to 5.7 million dollars and also do away with over a quarter of EPA jobs.
Towards late 50’s and through the 60’s, the congress responded to public outcry about how human activities were a threat to the environment. It was James E. Murray who presented the bill. It was called the resources and conservation act of the 1959 (Wisman, 1985). The public had been alerted about the effects of use of pesticides on the environment by a publication by Rachael Carson in 1962. The following years would see many of such bills introduced and hearings would be held to talk about the environment’s state and potential responses by the congress.
A joint house senate conference was organized in 1968 by senate committee chairmen on interior and insular affairs and house committee on science and astronautics to talk more about the need for implementation of a policy on the environment. In the meeting, some congress members expressed concern about the actions of the federal agency on environment degradation. It was in 1969 that NEPA was created. The bill was declared a national policy of the environment (Wisman, 1985). The president also required that annual reports be prepared henceforth. It was signed into law in 1970 by President Nixon. NEPA made it obligatory that statement of environmental impacts be made actions to be taken by the federal government (Wisman, 1985). The statement with all the details would later come to be referred to as environmental impact statement (EIS). President Nixon would later on reorganize all the many environmental responsibilities under the federal government into one agency, the environmental protection agency.
Following hearings between the house and the senate, the proposal was approved. Its first administrator, William Ruckelshaus was sworn into office in December, 1970 (Wisman, 1985). The public and private sector felt excited about the agency in its first days. Expectations were high from all the various groups that finally someone to take care of the environment was finally here. This was after the growing concerns of pollutions from industries.
There are a number of executive orders and laws that serve the agency’s foundation for environmental protection and public health. Some of the laws have not been implemented right away since they lack enough details (Portney, 2016). These regulations include: atomic energy act, beach act, clean air act, clean water act, energy policy act, FFDCA, FIFRA, national environmental policy act, nuclear waste policy act, ocean dumping act, pollution prevention act, safe drinking water act, shore protection, toxic substances control act (Percival, Schroeder, Miller, & Leape, 2013).
EPA role in the 21st century
Since 1970, the EPA roles have not shifted from their earlier roles. The only change we can see is cleaner air to breath and water is safe to drink. There is less pollution produced and waste sites have been restored. However despite the progress, 21st century problems are tricky and require extensive thinking and system solutions (McCarthy, 2016). Today, human society and the environment have been tested on a worldwide level by the [population pressures and growth of the economy. This have had dire consequences on nature by increasing greenhouse emissions, reducing biodiversity, and other pressures on natural resources like soil, fresh water, wetlands and forests. These threats were clearly outlined in millennium ecosystem assessment in 2005. They determined that out of 24 ecosystems services globally, 15 were being degraded or utilized unsustainably (Rosenbaum, 2013).
However, today the EPA has devised new methods of tackling these new global environmental challenges. They have utilized science through collaborations with other state and federal agencies. An instance is water issues which heavily rely on the United States geological survey (USGS) and agencies of the state. Also, success of protection program for endangered species depend heavily on collaborations among various state agencies like wildlife and fish services, EPA, the states, NGO’s and effectiveness of programs collaborations like those of climate change i.e. EPA and NOAA (The National Oceanic And Atmospheric Administration) and other state agencies (McCarthy, 2016). These collaborations are aimed at establishing an approach of science and management to address these complex environment problems in the world today and in the future.
The environmental policies have evolved between the 19th and 21st century (McCarthy, 2016). The focus in the 19th century was more on land conservation. In the 20th century, the focus laid more on human health risk; more problem specific than the previous century (Percival, Schroeder, Miller, & Leape, 2013). In the 21st century, the issues are complex and therefore deployment of collaborations between various state agencies to eradicate these global problems (Hecht & Fiksel, 2015). The outcomes of EPA in these centuries have also shifted between these centuries. In 19th century, the outcome was land preservation, while 20th century the results were pollution controls and in the 21st century the outcome is projected to be global sustainable development.
Regulations between the centuries have also evolved. In the 19th century, the regulations are low while that of the 20th century were heavy. The 21st century regulations have been flexible (Percival, Schroeder, Miller, & Leape, 2013). The economic focus in the 19th century aimed at increasing the value of land use and development of industries. The 20th century EPA model aimed at cost minimization while that of the 21st century has been focused on doing strategic investments and achieving long-term wellbeing of the society (Attfield, 2014).
The Obama administration in its two terms managed to unleash a number of regulations (Heinzerling, 2014). These have brought the administration under criticism from various divides (McCarthy, 2016). They cited that the agency had overstepped its mandate (Rosenbaum, 2013). The economic costs subjected by these regulations have also been cited by most critics (Morgenstern, 2014). The recently sworn in government has promised to cut most of these regulations in order to save on the budgets. Among the criticized regulations is the clean air act.
The EPA has been a revelation over the last four decades. The environment has been protected from human activities that deteriorate it. Through its range of regulations it has written, the environment is getting cleaner and cleaner today. Majority of the regulations are discussed in the House and senate and approved by the president. The issues of pollution will soon be a problem of the past considering many organizations have allied with EPA to protect the environment.
The focus, economic, outcomes, and regulatory activities have evolved between the centuries to what it is in the 21st century. The future looks bright because the current EPA is more flexible and diverse in operations to safeguard the environment. Science and management approach injection into EPA are a promise of success in creating a clean environment for the future.
Attfield, R. (2014). Environmental ethics: an overview of the twenty first century. John wiley &sons.
Hecht, A. D., & Fiksel, J. (2015). Solvingthe Problem We Face: The United States Environmental Protection Agency, sustainability, And the Challenges of the Twenty-First Century. Sustainability Science, Practice, & Policy, 11(1).
Heinzerling, L. (2014). Inside EPA: A Former Insider’s Reflection On The Relationship Between The Obama EPA And The Obama White House. Pace Envtl. L. Rev..31, I.
Mccarthy J. E., (2016). EPA Regulations: Too Much, Too Little, or On Track? Congregational Research Service.
Morgenstern, R. D. (2014). Economic analyses of EPA: Assessing the regulatory impact. Routledge.
Percival, R. V., Schroeder, C. H., Miller, A. S & Leape, J. P. (2013). Environmental Regulation: Law, Science, and Policy. Wolters Kluwer Law & Business.
Portney, P.R. (Ed.) (2016). Public Policies for Environmental Protection. Routledge.
Rosenbaum, W. A. (2013). Environmental Politics and Policy. Cq press.
Wisman, P. (1985). EPA History (1970-1985). Washington DC – Environment Protection Agency.