Environmental Protection Agency
Environmental Protection Agency (EAP) was formed in 1970 to address environmental pollution after the public became increasingly concerned about the impact unchecked activities could have on the environment. The fast deterioration of the once virgin land led to the need to establish a body that would monitor the health of the environment. By the mid-twentieth century, the land had started degrading and the quality of air had drastically reduced mainly due to the effects of the industrial growth. There was enough scientific research conducted to provide evidence of a deteriorating environment. The EPA is the result of the public’s demand to put a check on environmental abuse, which was directly impacting their health.
Rachel Carson’s Work
Rachel Carson was a biologist and an environmentalist whose work ignited the environmental movement. In 1962, she published a book called Silent Spring, detailing environmental issues and educating the American citizens about the impact they could have on their health. The book drew the attention of the American public on the consequences of their activities and their potential to alter the natural world permanently. She wrote about synthetic pesticides and how they would go beyond killing bugs and enter the atmosphere and make their way into food chain, threatening birds and the fish population as well as sickening children. Carson used much of the already existing data to present her case. Though her data was already known by the community, she was the first person to put all the existing findings together and draw a warranted conclusion for the public. This action precipitated a revolution of environmentalists.
In less than a year after the publication of her book, she testified before a Senate subcommittee on the dangers of pesticide, giving evidence regarding the connection between pesticide and cancer. She said that she was 56 years old and fighting breast cancer. The ailment had deteriorated her health. Her pelvis was damaged, which made her struggle to walk. Senator Ernest Gruening acknowledged that her book was the first to greatly influence the people’s view toward their environment. The book made a strong case for the idea that humans have poisoned the nature, which would, in turn, poison them. The U.S. government reviewed Carson’s idea with many other problems that were facing the environment eventually creating EPA.
Problems that Led to formation of EPA
The U.S. State and local governments had put efforts to addressing pollution issues. Water pollution was an issue. About 20 years ago, only a third of the world’s waters were safe for sea food and swimming (Davies, 2014). A significant portion of wetland was registered to be lost each year. Runoff water led to destructive soil erosion with high amount of phosphorus and nitrogen deposits in water bodies. Additionally, water treatment plans did more harm than good. The plans served a small population but contaminated most water bodies, a trend that would have resulted in adverse effects if it existed until today.
Air pollution was also a critical issue. In 1955, the nation passed an Air Pollution Control Act, which marked the first piece of legislation in combating pollution. The act identified air pollution as a national issue hence required initiates to be taken to improve the environmental conditions. After eight years, the Congress passed the Clean Air Pollution Act of 1963 with the aim of reducing air pollution by controlling levels of emission by institutions. The problem was that the Act did not incorporate the mobile sources of air pollution, which contributed high amounts of pollution. Though amendments were passed in the following years, the standards set were deemed inadequate. Air pollution was still an ailing problem, and the act needed to be revised for better results.
Formation of EPA
In 1963, 400 people had died due to smog, one of the worst air pollution event in New York (Carter, 2007). This incident served as an awakening call to people regarding the effects of polluted air. The Santa Barbara oil spill in 1969 also had a significant impact on the environment. Hundreds of birds were killed apart from the marine life lost due to the spill. The event received widespread media coverage and the public became more discontent with the way the government was handling these issues. In addition, there was fear among the public that the high level of auto exhaust in some areas could cause birth defects. These events brought a realization that the chemical and physical agents being released to the environment through industrial operations were harmful to the people and the environment. This realization led to the initiation of Earth Day on April 22, 1970 (Meyer, 2011). Millions of students and citizens rallied on this day to learn and speak for the protection of the environment. All these events led to the need for establishing an environmental agency that would monitor the environmental health of the country. President Richard Nixon signed an executive order and the EAP was finally created in 1970.
The president formed EAP in response to the often-confusing and ineffective environment protection laws. EPA was formed to monitor the environmental protection laws and fix guideline that would ensure they are adequately enforced. The functions of the Department of Interior, Department of Agriculture, and Department of Health, Education and Welfare were transferred to the agency. The agency was also put in charge of administering the Clean Air Act, the Environmental and Pesticide Act, and the Clean Water Act. The Clean Water Act intended to improve the quality of water. It provided a framework establishing standards to be amended, technical tools to be utilized, and financial sources. It also focused on controlling sources of pollution including wastewater discharges. In general, its primary objective was restoring and maintaining the integrity of the country’s waters. On the other hand, Clean Air Act extended federal authority provided by the Act earlier on. The act authorized the legal system of states to limit emission level of institutions. After formation of EPA, major amendments were established, including provisions preventing further deterioration of air. By the mid-1990s, the agency was additionally enforcing laws controlling ocean dumping and uranium mill tailings, among others. By then, it was also enforcing a total of 12 major statutes (Carlarne, 2010). The agency has also been successful in enforcing many programs. Its operations are funded by grants overseen by the Office of Grants. It also gets funds from donations from the public and other general bodies across the country.
The central duty of EAP is enforcing environmental laws with the aim of protecting the environment and the health of the public. It enforces laws and regulation by ensuring individuals and institutions comply with the requirements of the law, failure to which civil action is taken. When a law is passed by the Congress, the agency drafts regulations in order to clarify how it will be put into action. The agency also develops enforcement programs to ensure consistency and fairness. It further administers guidance to help the regulated community understand and implement regulations. One of its top priorities is protecting places with high pollution levels as compared to others. It does this by incorporating Environmental Justice (EJ) in areas like compliance planning and implementation and identification of cases and development of solutions. In general, the EAP is responsible for overseeing states’ activities and monitoring and implementing its approved programs.
The agency has not been free of controversies however. In 1983, the agency was charged for fiscal mismanagement, leading to the resignation of its director Anne M. Gorsuch. More recently, the agency has been embroiled in a controversy after President Trump appointed former Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt as the new director. While the Republicans have welcomed and supported his appointment, his appointment has received strong opposition from the Democrats. The agency’s employees have also protested against his appointment, fearing a reduction in research budget, job cuts, and a slash in salaries, among other measures. The fact that Pruitt, as the attorney general, had sued the agency several times and the recent disclosure of his ties with the fossil fuel companies do not speak in his favour as the new head of the agency. According to Schwartz (2017), the EPA regulations Pruitt fought against as the attorney general have saved more than 10,000 lives. Before his appointment, his office was asked by a judge to release more than 3,000 emails to and from fossil fuels companies, a request put forward by the Centre of Media and Democracy (CMD) (Schwartz, 2017). CMD has requested for email more than eight times since 2014 but had only received 411, some of them already available to the public (Schwartz, 2017). The Democrats asked Pruitt to release the emails as part of his confirmation, but he refused and asked the senators to file their own records to the public. In addition to this, the release of scientific studies conducted by EAP, which gave evidence of climate change due to the release of greenhouse gasses, was put on hold by Trump’s administration for “alternative facts.” Trump’s administration made it mandatory for all scientific works and researches conducted by the EAP to be reviewed before they could be released to the public. These controversial rules have raised concerns among scientists and journalists.
There are various programs undertaken by EPA to ensure they focus on their vision of working towards a better environment. The major programs include EPA Safer Choice, Energy Star, SmartGrowth, and WaterSense (Osofsky, 2013). The EPA safer choice recognizes products that do not contain components that can contaminate the environment. Safer choice helps businesses and consumers to buy products that do not harm human health and the environment. Some of the components that are not allowed in products include carcinogens and developmental toxins among others. Energy star helps consumers, business, and industries to purchase products that are energy efficient. The objective is to save cost by adopting cost-effective products and most importantly, ensuring they are energy efficient to protect the environment. Smart Growth comprises of developments and strategies, which also help in protecting our health and the environment. It focuses on making communities stronger, attractive and more socially and economically viable. Examples of some of its developmental works include conserving resources like rebuilding infrastructure and designing homes among other. Lastly, the Water Sense is a program that helps America choose and use water-efficient products and services. The program helps in identification of these products to ensure only efficient water products carry that label. Some of the issues addressed by the program include eliminating unnecessary leaks and waste water, which are achieved by encouraging commercial and residential sectors to adopt the most efficient technology.
EPA Spending (31% cut)
The proposal to slash EPA’s budget by 31% will deal a major blow to the agency. President Trump released his aims on 16th March 2017 calling for the elimination of funds for the Clean Water Power Plan and making changes on air pollution (Jaffe, 2017). Trump previously aired his doubts about people’s influence on climate change. He openly admitted his disregard for climate change and consequently saw the need to reduce spending on climate change related programs. In fact, he blamed the turbines for deaths of many Eagles and further argued that costs of solar power were unnecessarily high. Therefore, further reductions on EAP are expected, especially on global warming and alternative energies and any other concept that fails to line up with Trump’s views. Come 2018 budget; Trump seeks to clear out regulations, which, according to him, are slowing down the growth of U.S. businesses. On that note, he also aims to scrap off EPA enforcements, which require companies to pay fines for pollution
About 3,200 current EPA employees are bound to be eliminated by the administration of the proposal (Jaffe, 2017). That is how adverse the impacts of the proposal have on the people’s wellbeing in addition to threats of climate change if the environment is not sustained. It will put a stop to programs initiated by Obama’s administration intended to combat climate change. According to president Trump’s views, the U.S. government can reduce green regulation and still maintain the quality of air and water. EPA workers are concerned of losing their jobs, while hoping that Trump’s promise of creating employment will secure them a job.
EPA is a pioneer in the field of environmental and human health studies and research. The agency’s research and programs have had a great impact on managing environmental issues. This is evident from the many successful programs it has introduced in its history.
Despite the controversies and the charges against the agency, the work it has done to protect the environment and human life remains unparalleled.
Carter, N. (2007). The politics of the environment: Ideas, activism, policy. Cambridge University Press.
Carlarne, C. P. (2010). Climate change law and policy: EU and US approaches. Oxford University Press, USA.
Davies, J. C., & Mazurek, J. (2014). Pollution Control in United States: Evaluating the System. Routledge.
Jaffe, S. (2017). Marching for science as budget cuts threaten US research.
Meyer, J. H. (2011). Appropriating the environment: How the European institutions received the novel idea of the environment and made it their own. Retrieved from https://www.polsoz.fu-berlin.de/en/v/transformeurope/publications/working_paper/wp/wp31/index.html.
Osofsky, H. M. (2013). The geography of solving global environmental problems: Reflections on polycentric efforts to address climate change. NYL Sch. L. Rev., 58, 777.
Schwartz, J. (2017). Science, politics, and health: The environmental protection agency at the threshold. Epidemiology, 28(3), 316-319. Retrieved from http://journals.lww.com/epidem/Fulltext/2017/05000/Science,_Politics,_and_Health__The_Environmental.3.aspx.