May 15, 2015 06:08

From the Publisher

It was one of those nights where I just couldn’t sleep, so my mind began to wander. This night, I happened to think of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Where did it come from and how did it get to be so powerful? The next day, I began to do a little research. Here’s a little bit of its history.

The EPA was established by President Nixon on December 2, 1970, for the purpose of protecting human health and the environment. It’s headquartered in Washington, D.C., and has ten regional offices around the country.

The EPA was not a carefully crafted, well integrated organization in the beginning. President Nixon, by executive order, ‘reorganized’ the Executive Branch by transferring 15 units from existing organizations into a now independent agency—the EPA. Four major Government agencies were involved.

It was not an easy inception. The components of the new agency were pieced together. Air, Solid Waste, Radiological Health, Water Hygiene, and Pesticide Tolerance functions and personnel had been transferred from the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare; Water Quality and Pesticide Label Review came from the Interior Department; Radiation Protection Standards came from the Atomic Energy Commission and the Federal Radiation Council; Pesticide Registration came from the Department of Agriculture. Employees who transferred were accustomed to four varieties of policies, procedures, and administrative practices. It took several years under an able administrator, William D. Ruckelshaus, to bring relative order out of the resulting chaos.

During this period, a great many new environmental laws were passed and some old ones resurrected and refurbished, in addition to energy legislation that impacted on the environment. Other environmental-type laws were enacted, such as the Coastal Zone Management Act (1972), the Marine Protection Research and Sanctuaries Act (1972), the Endangered Species Act (1973), the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act (1976), the Marine Mammal Protection Act (1972), the Deepwater Ports and Waterways Safety Act (1974), the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act (1974), the Water Resources Planning Act (1977), the Water Resources Research Act (1977), the Environmental Quality Improvement Act (1970), several amendments to the Food Drug and Cosmetics Act, and the Environmental Education Act. There was renewed enforcement of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899.

The Rules and Regulations issued under these laws numbered into many thousands. In its early years, the EPA alone placed about 1,500 rule-making notices in the Federal Register annually.

Over these past 45 years, the EPA has become a very powerful branch of the Federal Government with a very broad reach.

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