50 Years of the EPA

For five decades, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has worked diligently to ensure that America’s natural landscapes and resources are handled with the utmost care. Since their inception in 1970, the organization has enforced significant regulations, implemented National Compliance Initiatives, and passed more than 50 laws and executive orders in an effort to create a cleaner and healthier America. 

Quickly following the publishing of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, there was a growing concern among citizens about environmental issues that, up until that point, had gone almost entirely unnoticed. However, when public spaces such as beaches and rivers that were once used as vacation spots for many families started to become overrun with pollutants, there seemed to be a newfound understanding of how directly the health of the environment affects human life. This heightened concern from the public placed pressure on the Nixon administration to take action against the degradation of our natural resources. In his presentation to the House and Senate regarding environmental protection, Nixon proposed stricter air quality standards and guidelines, increased taxes and legislation on the use of polluting chemicals, launching federally-funded research, and a four billion dollar budget for the improvement of water-treatment facilities alone. To tackle these projects (among others), Nixon’s environmental council recommended that all environmental efforts be concentrated under the responsibility of one agency, thus the EPA was born. 

In their relatively short time as an agency, the EPA has made major strides in the fields of environmental health, natural land conservation, resource use, and environmental education. Many of the EPA’s most significant impacts were made during their first few years, including the Clean Air Act (1970), Safe Drinking Water Act (1974), Clean Water Act (1972), and the Ocean Dumping Act (1972). Due to the quick action taken by the EPA, American citizens have largely been able to avoid the damaging health effects of environmental degradation such as cardiac illness, waterborne disease, and lower-respiratory infections that remain prevalent in many other parts of the world. 

Protesters shortly before the passing of the Clean Air Act (1970).

The progress of the EPA has not come without backlash, however. Despite their efforts to improve environmental conditions for everyone, over the years they have received harsh criticism and pushback from opposing political groups. Nevertheless, the EPA has continued to push forward with projects and legislation that act in the best interest of our people and our planet.



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