Protecting the Environment: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

July 9, 1970 was the birth of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ordered by President Nixon | Courtesy of Wikipedia

As our society continues to grow and increase in population, more and more people use the earth’s resources. The use of these resources affects the land, water, air, and even human life. Taking advantage of these resources can lead to negative effects on one’s health or on the condition of our environment. Because of this, restrictions are created to sustain the earth and its resources. While concern for the environment has been decades in the making, it was not until 1970 that the environment received its most powerful ally in the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The events that led up to the establishment of the EPA were influenced by the involvement and actions of a series of Presidents. President Theodore Roosevelt was one of the first presidents to recognize the importance of focusing on environmental issues. The four main issues he focused on were: reforestation, topsoil erosion, conservation of resources, and water pollution. President Kennedy was another president to address environmental issues. One of his best decisions was in appointing Stewert L. Udall as Secretary of Interior. Udall worked with Congress to bring investments to National Parks and other recreational areas. This was to promote awareness to the public on conserving the environment. President Johnson and his wife were also involved in environmentalism. Ladybird Johnson was involved in a campaign called “Beautify America,” which sought to clean up the environment. Environmental groups were formed, such as the Environmental Defense Fund and Friends of the Earth. In 1968, there was a law that prevented construction to take place around any system associated with the Grand Canyon. After that, President Johnson established the National Wild and Scenic River System. Finally, President Richard Nixon signed the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). These were all contributing steps that resulted in the establishment of the EPA.1

The polluted air “smog” in New York City | Courtesy of Walter Albertin

In 1970, President Nixon submitted an Executive Order to create the Environmental Protection Agency. The purpose of this agency was to inform the public with information about the environment and to set regulations in order to protect it. This included the protection of water, air, land, and human life since the environment effects our health as well.2 During the 1960’s, there was great need for environmental regulations; however, there were other agencies that had existed for that purpose. These agencies were not as organized and as consistent in regulating the environment as the EPA.3 The air in major cities in the 1960s became more contaminated as air pollution increased. In 1963, there was an increase in smog in the atmosphere in New York, which caused four hundred people to die from these atmospheric conditions.4 Another environmental incident occurred in California where an oil spill covered four hundred square miles of the Pacific coastline with slime that killed hundred of animals, including many birds.5 These were but two events of many that displayed how the environment was affected by human activity. This led to the formation of the Environmental Protection Agency. However, before the EPA was formed, there were a few agencies that already existed, such as the Environmental Quality Council, established by President Nixon in 1969. This then allowed Congress to pass the  Environmental Policy Act of 1969. President Nixon then formed the EPA one year later to take more responsibility over the smaller environmental agencies.6  By 1979, twenty-seven new environmental laws and regulations were formed from the EPA, some of which included the Resource Recovery Act, and the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts.7

A woman participating in the Love Canal Protest | Courtesy of Wikipedia

The Environmental Protection Agency is separated into ten regions in the United States, each of which is responsible for environmental oversight in three to five states. The purpose of this is so that each region is able to supervise individual states to make sure regulations and laws are enforced. In some cases, the EPA has been sued. Industries would sue the EPA if regulations seemed impossible to meet. Environmentalists sued the EPA as well because they felt the agency was making slow progress in environmental sustainability. The EPA enforced “Clean Up” regulations, where polluting industries would be required to clean up or reduce the pollution they caused in productions. For example, Love Canal in New York was a target for clean up regulations. A chemical company was responsible for restoring and cleaning Love Canal, since it had contaminated the canal with waste and other chemicals. New York had declared this incident as a health emergency in 1976. The intentions of these regulations was not only to keep water clean, but to protect people from contamination.8 A goal of the Environmental Protection Agency was to inform the public about the environment and how their everyday lifestyles affect the earth. The EPA in the 1990’s changed from focusing on environmental regulations and laws, to figuring out ways to prevent pollution and contamination.9

The Environmental Protection Agency helps to save our environment from the negative impacts of human activity. President Nixon’s choice in establishing the agency was a great idea because if it had not been created, the condition of our environment would have become worse. The EPA has also spread awareness to other countries that do not have environmentally-regulated industries on how we must protect our earth for later generations to come.

  1.  D. T. Kuzmiak, “The American Environmental Movement,” The Geographical Journal vol. 157, no. 3 (Nov 1991): 269-271.
  2.  Encyclopedia of Environmental Ethics and Philosophy, 2009, s.v. “U. S. Environmental Protection Agency,” by Robert Collin.
  3. Encyclopedia of Environmental Ethics and Philosophy, 2009, s.v. “U. S. Environmental Protection Agency,” by Robert Collin.
  4. Lily Rothman, “Here’s Why the Environmental Protection Agency Was Created,” Time Magazine, April 4, 2017.
  5. Lily Rothman, “Here’s Why the Environmental Protection Agency Was Created,” Time Magazine, April 4, 2017.
  6. Lily Rothman, “Here’s Why the Environmental Protection Agency Was Created,” Time Magazine, April 4, 2017.
  7. Encyclopedia of Environmental Ethics and Philosophy, 2009, s.v. “U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,” by Robert Collin.
  8. Encyclopedia of Environmental Ethics and Philosophy, 2009, s.v. “U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,” by Robert Collin.
  9. Encyclopedia of Environmental Ethics and Philosophy, 2009, s.v. “U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,” by Robert Collin.
Protecting the Environment: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
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  • It’s very upsetting knowing about the consequences that we have caused to our own environment. Many people were aware of this and established the Environmental Protection Agency. However, there need to be more awareness because the environment Is still being hurt and destroyed. Global warming has been an issue that is currently being proven by all the very spontaneous and dangerous natural disasters that have been occurring lately. More emphasis is needed and I’m glad this article is published to help.

  • This was a well written article describing what the EPA is. I had never heard of the EPA before and you did a great job informing the reader because now I know why, how and who made it. I am glad they made the EPA because without who knows how bad the pollution would be today. There could have been smog everywhere or global warming could have been happening at a faster rate then it is now.

  • I have really enjoyed this article, especially since I think it is related to a problem that surrounds us today. Without any doubt, global warming is a terrible phenomenon that is caused by us, unfortunately. As the saying goes, you are not aware of what you have until you lose it. For years, scientists and environmentalists have warned us about the consequences of our environmental irresponsibility, they have urged us to change. Although small changes were made, big companies behave in a hypocritical way. It is true, they have left their factories that contaminated a lot. However, they only did this because of the environmental laws and respective sanctions. Worse still, they now invest in countries that do not have environmental sanctions, which makes the manufacture of their products completely harmful to the environment. A thought that only fixes on the monetary gain, a thought that unfortunately is shared by the most powerful man of this country: Donald Trump.

  • Great article, I learned about something crucially important. Your introduction was a perfect build up to what you later expand on. It is no surprise that the government of the United States has been extremely diligent in environmental activism since way back, preserving the earth has always been critical. However, I feel no real change has been done. Of course, agencies have been established, but it seems that weather conditions just worsen. The EPA has to persevere and be strict because the clock is ticking.

  • This was so interesting to read. I’m glad that the Environmental Protection Agency was put together and is still active today. I had no idea that the organization was put together by President Nixon. I know he’s often ridiculed for resigning and for the Water Gate scandal but it’s good and surprising to know that he was somewhat behind the development of the EPA. I think the organization is a continued necessity, especially in the world we live in today.

  • I am glad that regulations began at this time in order to protect the environment. But I do wish more was done and that even more was being done today. I admire that these past presidents took serious consideration into the environment and how humans do take a major toll on it. It is true that we have very much negatively taken an impact on the environment, and it is our responsibility to protect it. I wish current people in power in this country would not neglect the environment and actually respected the earth.

  • It has always bugged me that pollution and things of that nature take such a huge toll on our environment. I wonder how effective EPA has been throughout the years. I wonder what would happen if everyone gained the knowledge of EPA and how pollution harms the environment and animals how different things would be? This is a good article. It brings up a lot of questions about what can be done to help our world.

  • This was a very well written, informative essay. One of the many things I found to be surprising was that this was somewhat recent, it hasn’t been a century since the Agency was created. I also found interesting was that a first lady was taking initiative to resolve an issue present. I had never heard of the man who was appointed as secretary of Interior (a term of which I have never heard of) and that there were a few similar agencies before the official EPA was created.

  • I was really able to better understand the importance of EPA after reading several examples of the type of environmental issues that were negatively impacting the world. This really set a perspective on the real need for EPA. I also really like that it describes other agencies similar. Just like a lot of things that get created theres more than one attempt but to be able to explain what sets them apart really paints a better picture. I also enjoyed that even though it credited the agency to president Nixon, it clearly indicated the other presidents involved in getting the agency moving.

  • Our society is heavily populated and our population is continuously increasing. In fact, our society consists of major industrial factories. With population and industrial factories in mind, our society will experience and be heavily exposed to large amounts of gases that contaminate the air that humans inhale. President Nixon implementing the formation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is a unique law. The EPA is efficient because it enforces regulations upon the amount of resources our people can consume. This article was very informative and gave me a greater overview on how the EPA functions.

  • This is a good article in describing the The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. It is structured very well and shows you have a great understanding in the Agency’s history. I believe however that more information and examples could have really reinforced this article’s point. For instance at the beginning of the article bringing forward effects of problems such as global warming would have really grabbed the readers attention more as well as have them think about the problem to themselves. Overall still a good article.

  • I in my view the regulation and the upkeep of laws pertaining to the protection of the earth are vital. I think that President Nixon did a revolutionary and very logical decision when vouching for the Environmental protection agency. It is hard for the world to acknowledge something that it is not often considered, such as our environment; and I think from that point on the harm that we, human have made has become not only recognized but unacceptable.

  • This article informed me of an organization that I should have already known more about, being that I feel strongly about the issues facing our environment in our current day and age. Its sad to see how much initiative these former presidents took in cultivating movements aimed at preserving the planet compared to the lack of initiative from our current leader.

  • I really found this article really interesting and i also got the chance to know about something new. As the population of the world is rapidly going up, the resources are also degrading at a faster pace. So sustainable development should be there. Apart from that, i am very grateful to EPA that it is doing its best to save the environment and raise awareness. I really liked the concept of dividing EPA into different regions so that each region was able to focus more for enforcing rules and regulations. To sum it up, it was a good read.

  • In order to secure a stable future, one must not only worry about social relations in the world, but one must worry about our relationship with the natural world. Environmental policies are an effective way to prevent the rapidly declining condition of Earth from having disastrous consequences that will not allow sustainable life. It is within humanity’s best interest to continue making changes to our polices and habits if we are to continue inhabiting the planet.

  • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is known across the U.S. as the agency responsible for guarding natural environments and habitats from the toxicity and damage of easily overlooked human/society activity. Prior to reading this article, I had known of President Nixon signing off on EPA, but was unaware of the three (and possibly more) preceding Presidents that were all determined to do the best for the environment. President Roosevelt was for reforestation and water pollution, President Kennedy for public promotions of conserving National Parks and lands, and President Johnson for the “Cleaning Up” of the environment. All great U.S. leaders who, although may not have worked side by side, brought together their ideas and beliefs to establish an agency that has big plans to save the planet from its harmful inhabitants.

  • With all of President Roosevelt’s other accomplishments its crazy to think that he was eco friendly as well, especially in that time period. The agency seems to have gone from more of a reaction company, to a company who prepares us to be ready for natural disasters or just human mistakes that will effect the society/nature. Great article, good topic.

  • What a very informative article, there were many facts that I didn’t know before such as all of the presidents involved in furthering our environmental protection. The EPA was a good idea that Roosevelt led the charge in. The EPA has helped our environment a lot however, much more can be done still and this article is a great way to bring awareness to some of the environmental issues we’ve had in the past and even still have today.

  • As human beings we have a ton of responsibilities, and we often forget our most important task: protect the environment. Many people do not understand that our resources are not infinite. Without the EPA, who knows what our quality of life would be like. It is a shame that we do not have further support from our country’s top leaders. I only wish that in the future we have more protection agencies to better secure our environment.

  • This article is a great way to bring awareness to environmental issues that the world is still facing today. I find it interesting that it was only about 50 years ago when the government started to take action and implement acts and regulations to help protect the planet. The environmental issues discussed are still relevant today with pollution still being a major concern for the earth.

  • Considering that today Presidential elections take into account their standings when it comes to environmental awareness, I am surprised that the EPA was not formed sooner than 1970. I have never been one to concern myself with the environment, but I have also never been one to throw my trash all over the place, I am curious to know if the collective laziness of all those who throw their trash in public areas (not trash cans) has just as great an impact on the environment as compared to human deforestation. Also, I do not like that the EPA is consistently blamed for the lack of cleanliness in America, I feel that most American’s are too conceited to actually make themselves conscious of the damage they cause to our environmental society.

  • this article was very informative and interesting. its very important for us to watch how my of the resources we us because it not only effects us but the environment that we live in. it was a great idea that president Nixon came up with the environmental protection agency because it really was informing the public that they need to makes some changes and cause less pollution

  • Thank you so much for this article, I love the topic! Environmental issues are one of the major concerns of our century. The author does a great job showing that it has been a long process, from the moment where these natural disasters (such as the smog in NYC) occurred, to the reaction of the government, people and diverse organizations, who decided what measures should be taken. I wish the author would have talked more in depth about the economic side of the issue, which is one of the major reason why so many people are against the Environmental Protection Agency’s measures.

  • Such an insightful article, I never would have guessed there were 10 locations nationally across the united states. It’s very much important that there was a conservationist type agency for the united states. We need it now more so than ever. Thanks for such a gripping piece not often understood. Also not taken seriously. This was very informative and well written.

  • The article was informative as it offered facts about previous administrations that tried to improve the environment by imposing several laws, however, Marissa Gonzalez writing is repetitive and contradicting. The author provides great facts about different presidents who wished to better the country’s environment by approving multiple protection agencies. Thus I am left wondering what her thesis/ claim or even purpose was.

  • This article was very informative and interesting. Without the EPA people and companies would be taking advantage of our great countries land, water, and air. I think it is vital that we take care of what we have because I would like my kids and my grandkids and so forth to be able to take in the beauty of our country.

  • Hello Merissa, I found this article to be very appealing especially in regards to the current climate change predicament. I think the environment is something that cannot be taken for granted and it’s very important that environmental protection agencies are taking up measures to protect the environment from human activity. However, in my view I feel like protecting the environment should be an ethical issue that very individual should embrace.

  • Very interesting article. Our environment is very important and I think as humans we do misuse our resources. A big misconception is that our resources are unlimited. I liked how you organized your article chronologically. I found it a little humorous that both industries and environmentalists would sue the Environmental Protection Agency because either they felt they were too strict or not strict enough.

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