Role of the Environmental Protection Agency:
As the Industrial Revolution showed its effect on the environment of our whole planet, the USA was especially affected. There were rising concerns for the protection of the environment. Therefore, in 1970, the president of the USA, Richard Nixon established the EPA. Let us look at and try to understand what is the role of the Environmental Protection Agency.
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Why was the Environmental Protection Agency created?
As a society, we didn’t know a lot about our environment back in the 1960s and 1970s. Slowly, as civil society developed in America, an ecological consciousness also started developing among the population. The contaminants present in an environment are in varied numbers and together they have an effect on our planet. This synergy between pollutants needed to be slowed down and regulated.
Unregulated contamination of the environment has a damaging effect on the health of humans, the quality of flowers and plants, and our climate on this planet. As experts and scientists struggled to understand the effect of all this and fit all the pieces together; they also needed to find solutions. Certain environmental problems had already taken a serious form and were demanding a proactive approach to solving them.
Therefore, the arrival of a central agency was the requirement of the hour. The Environmental Protection Agency was set up under these circumstances. Its primary aim was to consolidate, evaluate, and improve the knowledge that they already had. While this was being done they also needed to apply the already existing environment restoration techniques. Basically, what was required was that they attend to urgent issues and simultaneously also create resilience for the future.
Today, after almost five decades, there is still a technology gap in certain areas when it comes to controlling pollution. However, the Environment Protection Agency has been successful in abating the major polluting sources and has been quite helpful to the cause of environment protection. EPA has worked for forecasting and assessment of environmental indicators. It has also brought information into the public domain so that everyone involved can make informed choices.
What does the Environmental Protection Agency do?
The EPA is headquartered in Washington D.C. If one had to describe it in a simple way, the EPA basically converts the major provisions of laws passed by Congress. It turns the complicated stuff into regulations and programs that the public can understand easily. Along with them, the target group of EPA is also industries, which is those who need to follow them. Apart from this, the EPA breaks down large amounts of money into smaller parts. This is distributed to states as well as other entities.
The distribution has a specific purpose which is explained in the environmental laws. This can be seen in the form of funds needed to regulate environmental programs by the state or the construction of sewage treatment plants. These funds enable the EPA to oversee and provide much of the environmental protection that the United States enjoys.
The EPA also has to determine a level of chemicals that is safe for tolerance by people in terms of food, animal feed, and water. If during its finding, the EPA realizes that the level is higher than allowed, then it enforces sanctions. It also has the power to fine the industries.
Purpose of Environmental Protection Agency:
It has many purposes. To understand the role of the Environmental Protection Agency let us look at them one by one. The work of EPA is to make sure that the following is happening:
- People in America should have clean air, water, and good quality soil so that land is fertile.
- Using Scientific information to come up with efforts on a national level and reduce risks to the environment.
- A fair and effective administration of federal laws centered around the protection of human health and our environment. The EPA has to also ensure that the implementation is as per the intention of Congress.
- Factors that are integral to the policy-making of the US are considered by EPA. So, the EPA inculcates issues related to natural resources and human health along with economic growth and energy in its work. It also considers factors of industry, transport, and agriculture with international trade in the establishment of environmental policy.
- Providing access to accurate information regarding human health and environmental risks to all sections of the population.
- Cleaning and revitalization of contaminated places by the parties responsible is done through the EPA.
- A review of the safety levels of chemicals available in the market is also done by the EPA.
- Development and enforcement of regulations is done by EPA.
- EPA gives grants for local projects that aim at the conservation of the environment.
- The purpose of the Environmental Protection Agency is also to educate people about the issues.
- The EPA can also amend the federal laws. For example, it evaluated 40 substances in 2019 to find out if they were low priority or high priority.
- One of the other main purposes of the EPA is to promote energy efficiency. Saving energy will ultimately benefit the environment and therefore, this becomes an integral part of environmental protection.
The enforcement of laws by EPA is a very important part of what it does. It protects not just the environment but also the community in the end through its programs. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is responsible for enforcing laws such as the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the National Environmental Education Act. Some of these have existed since even before the agency was formed.
Crimes related to Environment Protection are enquired into by the EPA. Such crimes and offenses are categorized into two – civil and criminal. Civil offenses are the ones in which the intention to harm the environment is not clearly present and the criminal ones are those where it is evident that harm was caused. Both of these are punished in a different manner and as per the laws in place.
Achievements of Environmental Protection Agency
- In the beginning, EPA had to administer various acts related to pollution control and wastewater discharge from industries. But with time, the mandate got wider and EPA rose to the demand of the situation.
- It looked over laws formed for regulating uranium mills and ocean dumping. It also ensured safe drinking water and controlled the level of insecticides, fungicides, and rodenticides being used in agriculture. The hazard created due to the use of asbestos in schools was also taken care of.
- EPA succeeded in installing catalytic converters in cars. This ensured a reduction in emission levels by 85% of unburned hydrocarbons.
- Between 1970- 1990 the air pollution levels in the USA was reduced to half because of actions taken by EPA.
- There were amazing improvements in the quality of water as well because the level of pollution in the water came down.
- During the 1980s and 1990s, EPA continued to strictly enforce the regulation for controlling toxic waste and governance of air and water quality standards.
- Substances that led to the depletion of ozone were slowly phased out and the emission of sulfur dioxide was controlled.
- EPA developed a mechanism called as Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA). This enabled the local communities to understand what kind of toxic chemicals were being produced by industries in their vicinity. This also helped in building plans for emergency situations in case of release of hazardous substances or exposure to them.
- With the arrival of the 21st century, the role of the Environmental Protection Agency has become more nuanced. Now it also looks over the problem of climate change.
- The EPA now comes up with strategies and methods to tackle the emission of greenhouse gases.
Conclusion: In our world today, bodies like the Environmental Protection Agency are of utmost importance in maintaining our environment. Let us help them by being aware of what they do and our role in it.