United States Environmental Protection Agency

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United States Environmental Protection Agency
Seal of the United States Environmental Protection Agency.png
Founded 1970
Headquarters Washington, DC
Key People Michael S. Regan
Twitter @EPA
Web site www.epa.gov
Releases Organization News

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is an independent agency of the federal government of the United States tasked with environmental protection matters. Established by President Richard Nixon on December 2, 1970, the EPA was created in response to growing public concern over pollution and environmental degradation. The agency's primary goal is to ensure the protection of human health and the environment by enforcing regulations based on laws passed by Congress.


The EPA was proposed by President Richard Nixon and began operation on December 2, 1970, after Nixon signed an executive order. The establishment of the EPA consolidated in one agency a variety of federal research, monitoring, standard-setting, and enforcement activities to ensure environmental protection. Since its inception, the EPA has been working towards a cleaner, healthier environment for the American people.

Mission and Activities[edit]

The EPA conducts environmental assessment, research, and education. It has the responsibility of maintaining and enforcing national standards under a variety of environmental laws, in consultation with state, tribal, and local governments. The agency's enforcement powers include fines, sanctions, and other measures. The EPA also delegates some permitting, monitoring, and enforcement responsibilities to U.S. states and federally recognized tribes, working with industries and all levels of government in voluntary pollution prevention programs and energy conservation efforts.[1]

In recent years, between 40% and 50% of EPA's enacted budgets have provided direct support through grants to State environmental programs. EPA grants to States, non-profits and educational institutions support high-quality research that will improve the scientific basis for decisions on national environmental issues and help EPA achieve its goals.[2]


The EPA is led by the administrator, who is appointed by the President and approved by the Senate. The current administrator, as of March 11, 2021, is Michael S. Regan, the first Black man to serve in this role.

The agency is not a Cabinet department, but the administrator is normally given cabinet rank. The EPA's headquarters are located in Washington, D.C., with regional offices for each of the agency's ten regions and 27 laboratories around the country.[3]

Key Programs and Initiatives[edit]

  • Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS): A program that mandates increasing amounts of renewable fuels to be blended into the gasoline supply.[4]
  • Clean Air Act: The EPA enforces regulations to protect the public from airborne contaminants known to be hazardous to human health.
  • Clean Water Act: The agency sets standards for wastewater and stormwater discharges to protect surface waters.[5]
  • Superfund: A program to clean up the country's most contaminated land and respond to environmental emergencies, oil spills, and natural disasters.[6]

The Clean Air Act authorizes the EPA to set National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) which establish acceptable concentrations of six criteria pollutants: ozone, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, lead, nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter.[7]

Challenges and Criticisms[edit]

The EPA has faced various challenges and criticisms over the years, including issues related to regulatory overreach, the balance between environmental protection and economic impact, and instances of fraud and mismanagement. Despite these challenges, the agency continues to play a crucial role in protecting environmental and public health in the United States.


Since its establishment, the EPA has made significant strides in reducing air pollution, improving water quality, and enforcing regulations that protect the environment and public health. The agency's efforts have contributed to cleaner air, safer drinking water, and the preservation of natural habitats.

The first major environmental success of the emissions trading concept was demonstrated in the 1980's U.S. program to phase out lead from motor fuel. This was followed by a highly successful EPA sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions trading program.

The EPA found that carbon dioxide was a "harmful pollutant" on April 17, 2009, thus putting carbon under the Clean Air Act. The move could result in the EPA creating and operating a carbon cap-and-trade market in the United States.[8]


  1. Our Mission and What We Do. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
  2. About EPA. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
  3. Research Centers, Programs, and Science Advisory Organizations. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
  4. What EPA Is Doing About Climate Change. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
  5. Water as a Climate Change Solution. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
  6. SuperFund. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
  7. Clean Air Act. The Environmental Literacy Council.
  8. EPA says CO2 emissions endanger human health. Reuters.