This timeline represents some of the major acts, campaigns, and developments of the Environmental Protection Agency in the past 40 years. The timeline also includes a more localized environmental agency, the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection. Being one of the key events in environmental awareness, the timeline also references the major anniversaries of Earth Day.
Created by aeokeefe on Nov 16, 2010
Last updated: 11/17/10 at 09:48 PM
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In preparation for its 40th anniversary, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has launched the “Pick 5 for the Environment” campaign. The campaign, targeted at all ages, is an effort to motivate people to act.
On the EPA website, children and adults alike can pick from different categories including water, air, land, energy, waste, and advocacy. By clicking on one of these categories, a list of environmentally friendly actions comes up. For example, by clicking on the water icon, a list of four actions pop up: Use only the water you need, and reuse when possible; Help keep water clean by using biodegradable and environmentally friendly cleaning products; Dispose of solid and liquid wastes and medications safely; and Protect your local water source from pollutants, excess pesticides and garbage. Site users can check off these actions, therefore pledging to better the environment through these acts. There is also links that users can follow to learn more about each action, such as finding out more about water conservation and water saving programs in the U.S.
After users have selected five or more actions, they can register their selections and share their pledges with others via social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. The “Pick 5 for the Environment” campaign encourages people to do their part to help protect the environment.
In 1996, Congress chose to amend some of its previous pesticide regulation acts by creating the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) of 1996. The FQPA was the most comprehensive and historic renovation of the U.S.’s pesticide and food safety laws in decades, and the EPA was given the difficult task of implementing it. Some of the chief requirements involved in the FQPA include stricter safety standards, especially for infants and children, as well as a complete reassessment of all existing pesticide tolerances, meaning the maximum permitted residues.
In meeting with the strict requirements of the FQPA, the EPA has ensured that all pesticides used on food in the U.S. meet the safety standards. In working with the act, the EPA has widened its scope of protection, especially for children, as well as begun using more innovative science practices to test for pesticides. According to the EPA website, “the national pesticide program is equipped to meet the challenges of protecting public health and the environment for decades to come.”
On June 30, 1994, the EPA launched the Brownfields Program. A brownfield is a property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse threatened or potentially threatened by the presence of contaminants, pollutants, or hazardous substances.
The mission of the EPA’s Brownfields Program is essentially to work with states, communities, and stakeholders to work together to prevent, assess, safely clean up, and sustainably reuse brownfields. According to the EPA website, it is estimated that there are over 450,000 brownfields in the U.S. By cleaning up these sites and reinvesting in the properties, the communities may benefit by increasing local tax bases, creating more jobs, utilizing existing infrastructure, and significant improve and protect the environment.
Since its inception, the EPA has cleaned up over 450 contaminated sites, created over 61,000 jobs through the Brownfields job training partnerships, and returned previously contaminated sites to those for productive community use.
On Nov. 16, 1990, Congress enacted the National Environmental Education Act of 1990. The purpose of the act was to promote environmental education among students, teachers, and others. The Environmental Protection Agency created environmental education programs in order to increase the understanding of environmental issues and encourage students to pursue career paths involving the environment. The National Environmental Education Act of 1990 includes providing training programs, environmental education grants, internships, awards, etc. According to the EPA website, some of the components of Environmental Education include “awareness and sensitivity to the environment and environmental challenges, knowledge and understanding of the environment and environmental challenges, attitudes of concern for the environment and motivation to improve or maintain environmental quality, skills to identify and help resolve environmental challenges, and participation in activities that lead to the resolution of environmental challenges.”
By the 20th anniversary of Earth Day, enthusiasm and interest for the event had begun to fall a bit. In hopes of igniting the flame once again, Dennis Hayes, chairman of Earth Day 1990, wanted to push the envelope even further. He is seen as the driving force for creating the international Earth Day, which included approximately 141 countries committed to generating awareness and action toward environmental issues. Organizations and people from countries all over the world planted trees, had parades and processions, held rallies, teach-ins, and protests, etc.
With a slogan that read, “EARTH DAY 1990: WHO SAYS YOU CAN’T CHANGE THE WORLD?” the purpose of this international event was to raise environmental issues to the global stage and incite action all over the globe. According to a statement released by the EPA two days before Earth Day 1990, “This Earth Day affirms a fundamental need a hope, perhaps even a growing demand that the activities of people can produce real bounty for our society without harming public health, without jeopardizing the productivity of the natural systems on inspiration nature provides.” As Hayes had hoped, Earth Day 1990 launched a more diversified movement than previous events, with about 200 million participants from over 100 countries. The 20th anniversary celebrations helped to motivate recycling efforts worldwide as well as other significant green initiatives.
The Clean Water Act (CWA) is a significant piece of legislation that institutes the essential structure for the regulation of pollutant discharges into the waters of the U.S. The CWA also aids in regulating the quality standards for surface waters in the U.S. While a previous act, the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, established the basic foundation of the CWA, there was a major reorganization and expansion in 1972. Later amendments have also been made. The CWA has many standards that help to protect U.S. waters. It has implemented pollution control programs, including setting wastewater standards for industry. The CWA established that it is unlawful to discharges any pollutant from a point source into navigable waters, unless there is a permit to do so. The EPA has set up permit programs and systems to enforce this.
Because water is essential to the daily lives of Americans, acts and regulations such as the CWA are critical in protecting their health and safety. According to the EPA website, many successes have come from acts like the CWA. For example, presently, over 2,000 bodies of waters that were identified as impaired back in 2002 now meet water quality standards. Also, many more waterways have become clearer and improved in quality, seen in a study of lakes from the 1970s to 2007, where half of the lakes saw less nutrient concentrations in later years.
The Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) was formed back in 1971 as a result of the interest sparked by the 1st annual Earth Day on April 22, 1970. Due to an increasing concern involving environmental quality in the 1960s, Connecticut legislature decided to create DEP by consolidating several state boards and commissions focused on environmental issues. The agency’s responsibilities include protecting the quality of the state’s water, lands, air, preservation of Long Island sound, management of wild life, state parks, and forests. DEP’s first Commissioner, Dan W. Lufkin, chose to split the new agency into two divisions: one committed to preservation and conservation, and the other committed to enforcement of pollution orders or environmental quality. The agency continues to grow in both size and accomplishments. Some of its major feats over the years include improving the air quality in the state of Connecticut as well as cleaning up the water in the Long Island Sound.
One of DEP’s first accomplishments came in 1974 with the reintroduction of wild turkeys into Connecticut. Because of past environmental damage from forest logging and clearing for agriculture, turkeys had disappeared from the state by the 1900s. Earlier attempts at restoration of the wild species had failed, but success occurred when free-roaming birds were safely captured in Maine and released into Connecticut using lightweight nets fired by rockets. During the years between 1975 and 1992, 356 turkeys were released in sites all over the state, and wild turkeys can have now been successfully restored to all 169 Connecticut towns.
The Clean Air Act of 1970 was a very important piece of legislation eventually enforced by the Environmental Protection Agency. The passing of this act caused a major shift in the federal government’s role in air pollution control. Not only did the Clean Air Act of 1970 authorize the establishment of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards, it also established requirements for state plans to achieve those standards. The act also authorized requirements for control of motor vehicle emissions as well as the establishment of National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants. Finally, the Clean Air Act of 1970 increased the enforcement authority needed to achieve the requirements of the act. Since the enactment, there has been many amendments to the act.
According the EPA website, the enactment of the Clean Air Act of 1970 has brought about great change over the past 40 years. Since the act went into effect, the U.S. has reduced 60 percent of the dangerous air pollutants that cause acid rain, lead poisoning, smog, etc. Certain clean air innovations, such as catalytic converters in cars and smokestack scrubbers, have aided in the cleaning up the air and essentially provide better health for Americans. According to the EPA, new cars are 98 percent cleaner in terms of smog-forming pollutants than they were when the Clean Air Act was first passed in 1970.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was formed on December 2, 1970 in Washington, D.C. The EPA was created by Reorganization Plan No. 3 of 1970, which was part of a key reorganization of the federal government led by President Nixon. Because of an increasing interest and public concern about environmental issues and their impact on human health, the EPA was formed by consolidating many preexisting programs across several agencies. The EPA was mostly started in light of the awareness raised by the first annual Earth Day celebration on April 22, 1970, but the agency was expanded largely due to new environmental laws, such as the Clean Air and Water Acts. The purpose of the EPA was and is to provide an organization which is focused on “federal research, monitoring, standard-setting and enforcement activities to ensure environmental protection.” The agency’s mission is to protect human health and to safeguard the natural environment, such as air, water and land. Essentially, the EPA works to create a clean and healthy environment for the nation’s people.
Over the years, the EPA has had a great deal of accomplishments in providing a better environment. Some of these successes include banning the use of the toxic chemical DDT, the regulation of auto emissions, cleaning up toxic waste, etc. A timeline of the agency’s accomplishments can be found on its website: http://www.epa.gov/history/timeline/index.htm
The first ever Earth Day occurred in 1970, but Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin actually began formulating the idea back in 1962. Senator Nelson had been troubled by the lack of political and national concern surrounding environmental issues. He motivated President Kennedy, who was in office at the time, to begin a conservation tour to generate national interest about these issues, but the tour was generally unsuccessful.
Senator Nelson continued to speak about environmental concerns across the country, hoping to gain the attention of politicians. During that time, anti-Vietnam War demonstrations, or teach-ins, were very popular among younger generations on college and university campuses. It was these type of demonstrations that gave Senator Nelson the idea to form his own teach-in to raise awareness for the environment. Seven months prior to the big event, he announced that there would be a nationwide, grassroots demonstration for the environment and encouraged everyone's participation. From there, the idea spread like wildfire, creating a nationwide response that was heard across the states. There was a great deal of press coverage about this national day of observing the issues facing the ecosystem.
Ultimately, Senator Nelson got the political attention he desired, and Earth Day became a successful, national event. According to an article found on America.gov, Earth Day, which occurs on April 22, "is the annual U.S. celebration of the environment and a time for Americans to assess the work still needed to protect the natural gifts of our planet."
On April 22, 1970, it is estimated that more than 20 million people participated in the eco-friendly demonstration. Though there seemed to be a dip in enthusiasm and involvement in Earth Day in latter years, there was a resurgence in the 90s. In 1990, with the help of a chief Earth Day organizer Dennis Hayes, over 200 million people worldwide partook in Earth Day-related events. As awareness and environmental concern continued to rise, so did the numbers. This past year, for the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, more than 1 billion are estimated to have participated.
http://earthday.envirolink.org/history.html; http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=n000033; http://www.america.gov/st/energy-english/2008/April/20070420114325jtnworb0.9966699.html; http://www.earthday.org/earthday2010