What Is the EPA?

Home & Family, Living Green
on November 29, 2011

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is the governmental agency that gave Americans the Clean Air Act and the Energy Star and WaterSense programs. It's also the organization responsible for eliminating lead-based gasoline. They were there after Sept. 11 to monitor air quality at Ground Zero and to oversee the 40-mile Hudson River cleanup of 2002. The EPA works every day to make our country a safer, healthier place for all citizens.

The beginnings. On Jan. 1, 1970, President Richard Nixon signed the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). This was a landmark policy. It required all federal agencies to consider the environmental impact of all their decisions, as well as to provide safe alternatives for those decisions and subsequent actions. Eleven months later, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was officially open.

The mission. The EPA's mission is to protect human health and the environment. Sounds simple enough, but it can be a daunting task that must be accomplished on various fronts. The EPA focuses on the protection of our air, water and land, as well as other U.S. interests including agriculture, energy, industry and transportation. In addition, it helps to establish laws regarding environmental issues and public health and safety. The EPA works in conjunction with state and local organizations to protect ecosystems and provide education outreach and support to citizens.

Clean air = better health. We know that air pollution is responsible for several serious health issues including asthma, cancer and other illnesses. The Clean Air Act of 1970 has significantly reduced health problems related to dirty air. According to the EPA, the Clean Air Act programs have helped to prevent 843,000 asthma attacks, 672,000 cases of chronic bronchitis and 205,000 premature deaths.

Protecting America's water. According to WaterSense, an EPA water conservation program, an average American family of four uses 400 gallons of water daily, with about 70 percent of that water used indoors. The EPA's Clean Water Act of 1972 and the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974 have been instrumental in keeping that water supply safe and healthy. In addition, the WaterSense program has helped consumers save millions of dollars in consumption costs while reducing the nation's overall average water usage.

Global outreach. The EPA is a global leader in environmental safety and education. Its Energy Star program, a joint effort with the U.S. Department of Energy, has inspired similar programs in other countries, including Canada and Japan. The EPA has international outreach including the Global Methane Initiative program and programs regarding climate change. On Oct. 12, 2007, 30 EPA employees were named Nobel Peace Prize winners for their study and work regarding climate change.