Positioned in Washington D.C, a body that not only regulates the national pollution control standards but also puts ahead guidelines for bettering the public health and the environment is known as the Environmental Protection Agency.
From ensuring the public, as well as the industries, are aware of and following the laws curated by Congress to regulate the funds’ distribution amongst the states and other entities, the sole reason for the initiation of the aforementioned by President Richard Nixon in December 1970 was for the enhancement of having healthy individuals and promote environmental justice.
1. Understanding the Concept of the Environmental Protection Agency
With the mission of bettering the standards for human beings and protecting the ecology, the EPA encompasses numerous aspects that require proper attention and regulation.
i) First Function –
The first the foremost of the core functions, the EPA performs is researching the effects of and enforcing tolerable restrictions on the use of pollutants. Not only executing the regulation of manufacturing, processing, and distribution but asserting the safe tolerance levels for chemicals and other pollutants in food, animal feed, and water, is what EPA deals with.
ii) Second Function –
Serving as the second core function, the role of the EPA is to enforce its authority via the means of imposing fines if the action executed is against the laws, carry out sanctions post the affirmation of Congress and manage other such procedures authorized by the federal government.
iii) Third Function –
The third aspect which the EPA takes under its umbrella is the creation of comprehensive environmental protection programs that are put in motion for promoting energy efficiency, environmental stewardship, spreading awareness pertaining to sustainable growth, regulating air and water quality, as well as putting forth rules for pollution prevention.
During the tenure of President Trump, the rules and regulations put forth by the EPA under the presidency of Barack Obama, pertaining to the carbon emissions from power plants, automobiles, and other contributors to climate change were precisely struck down. Adding to the act of backsliding, the EPA’s built as well as its also witnessed a severe downfall.
However, Michael Regan the first African- American man who is the current EPA administrator as nominated by the President followed by the affirmation of the Senate, leading the EPA, has put ahead that many of the regulatory sections that were repealed under the Trump government, will be brought back into motion.
2. Role of the Environmental Protection Agency
From administrating energy efficiency to understanding the concept of sustainable growth as well as how to limit pollution the EPA is a one-stop solution for better public health and extend protection for the environment. The various methods that lie under the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency are as follows:
i) The EPA Safer Choice Program:
Created for the purpose of bettering the environment, this is a program that ensures to provide a description for each product which permits the consumers to choose items that are either made without any pollutants or have chemicals that are safe, keeping in mind that the quality of the aforesaid item must not be affected or deteriorated.
ii) The Energy Star Program:
An initiative that indeed aids consumers to pick appliances for any use, that are pocket friendly as well as energy-saving.
iii) The National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System:
Regulating the discharge of chemicals as well as contaminants from industries, factories, etc, into U.S. waters is the essence of The National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System.
iv) Superfund Clean-up:
From identifying the contaminants, and having the toxic superfund locations cleaned to holding the individuals monetarily accountable for such discharges, the EPA manages to keep the release of the said chemicals under control.
v) Oil Spill Clean-up:
Be it on land, or in no-coast guard-controlled US waters the EPA has to execute and oversee the clean-up attempts in case of oil or any hazardous contaminant spills.
vi) Oil and Gas Waste Disposal:
Guiding states to carefully dispose of oil, gas, and other toxic chemical wastes, is how the EPA helps in protecting public health and nature.
vii) Clean Water:
- Water-Sense: To promote water efficiency and conservation by using properly installed toilets, faucets, and irrigation equipment, is the concept of the program.
- Safe Drinking Water– Having the mission to better the water quality for drinking, the EPA defines health-based standards by restricting the involvement of toxic chemicals in drinking water.
- As per their authoritative jurisdiction, the EPA can also engage in identifying and measuring the levels of safety in the drinking water sources that are found in locations where oil and gas operations are executed.
- Post any commencement of disasters, the EPA has the duty to provide resources for drinking water and sewage treatments to get back up and work immediately.
viii) Clean Air and Climate Protection:
To protect the public health from suffering through asthma attacks, birth defects, respiratory and cardiovascular disease as well as cancer, the EPA puts forth strict limitations when it comes to the emissions of toxic contaminants that are released from factories, refineries, power plants, oil and gas extraction, and vehicles.
ix) Chemical Safety:
Only if the new chemicals are certified as safe by the EPA post reviewing the applications pertaining to the same, will they be allowed on the market for use.
x) Bug Repellents:
To ensure that cockroach sprays, mosquito repellents, flea collars, and other such bug repellents are produced without affecting human beings in any which way, is what EPA makes sure of.
xi) Hazardous and Solid Waste Regulations:
From identifying how toxic and non-toxic waste is produced, to administering how the aforesaid discharge is transported, treated, stored, and disposed of, is the role of EPA in waste regulations.
xii) Radioactive Materials:
The EPA plays a very crucial role when it comes to dealing with radioactive elements.
Engaging with the response team to work with agencies situated on all levels, monitoring the intensity of the radioactivity, providing guidelines on how to protect people from being susceptible to unhealthy levels of radiation, and responding to emergencies pertaining to radioactive materials is an important function of the EPA.
xiii) Sustainable Communities:
The EPA engages in providing help to not just enhance the local economies but also to make such communities stronger as well as habitable, in accordance with the government agencies, NGOs, and the private sectors.
- The Smart Growth Program: A program that helps in enhancing sustainable community development.
3. Purpose of Environmental Protection Agency
It serves to be highly necessary to comprehend the exact role of the Environmental Protection Agency in order to better understand its essence in enhancing public health and the natural habitat. The work of the EPA is to make sure that:
- Citizens of the United States have access to clean water, air, and soil serving of good quality so as to tag the land as fertile.
- Any kind of risks associated with the environment on national and state levels shall be diminished radically using scientific techniques, equipment, and information.
- There should be fair, properly instituted administrative procedures in accordance with the laws of the nation that revolve around the enhancement of public health as well as the protection of the natural habitat. Along the same lines, it is essential for the EPA to also ensure the implementation of such procedures is as per the intention, and ideation of the Senate.
- All the essential requisites that are needed for developing policies of the United States pertaining to human health and the environment are considered. From the issues circling around energy efficiency, economic growth, and natural resources to the elements of life such as industries, transportation, and agriculture with international trade, the EPA keeps in mind the aforesaid for developing policies relating to the environment.
- Access to information, details, and knowledge, to an extent of maximum accuracy pertaining to public health and the natural habitat, inclusive of the positive developments as well as the risks are granted to the general population without any biases.
- The individuals or groups have taken strict responsibility for having the area, that they have intoxicated with contaminants, appropriately and thoroughly cleaned to avoid any sort of mishap.
- A report comprising details pertaining to the contaminants, as well as the safety levels of the same, in layman’s language is made available for the public to utilize.
- Any and all kinds of creation, development, amendment, and enforcement of regulations pertaining to the public health and the environment sector is conducted thoroughly.
- Special grants are bestowed upon the initiatives taken by local groups that revolve around the conservation of the environment.
- Proper education is given to the public pertaining to the issues faced in the health and environment arena.
- Laws are strictly enforced not only to benefit the environment but also the population in general. To put in motion laws such as Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the National Environmental Education Act is the primary duty of the EPA.
- Justice is given in cases of crimes extended toward the environment. Divided into two sections, civil and criminal, the EPA looks into, regulates, and orders in cases where laws regarding nature and public health are not followed.
4. What the Environmental Protection Agency has Achieved So Far
- Restricted to only regulate actions pertaining to pollution control and discharge from industries initially, the EPA is now responsible for managing various other environmental hazards as the scope of the same has become much wider with time.
- From overseeing the legal provisions that were brought into existence for regulating uranium mills and ocean dumping, to ensuring that the drinking water provided to the public is safe and devoid of pesticides, insecticides, and fungicides that are used in agriculture, EPA has worked tremendously for bettering the standards of public health.
- To ensure that the unburnt hydrocarbons are released 85 percent less, the EPA found victory in initiating the concept of catalytic converters in vehicles, especially cars.
- Speaking of a time, especially between the 1970s to the 1990s, with proper measures taken by the EPA, the air pollution levels in the United States reduced drastically.
- Not only the aforementioned, during the period of the 1980s and 1990s, but the EPA also indulged in the proper enforcement of laws regulating the method of discharging toxic waste and maintaining the quality in terms of standards for air and water.
- The EPA was also responsible for drastically asserting limitations and control on elements that contributed to ozone depletion as well as the emissions of sulfur dioxide were vehemently reduced.
- Initiating an environment and community health-oriented method, known as the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act- EPCRA, the EPA, not only aided the general public to come in contact with information pertaining to the type of chemical being produced in the industries of the said area but also developed plans in case of a crisis if such contaminants were discharged.
- Gradually expanding its scope, the EPA now deals with the issues as well as how to decrease the risks of climate change.
- Adding on its functions, the EPA is also responsible for taking over the aspect of greenhouse gases where strategies and methods are planned to decrease its emissions.
5. History of Environmental Protection Agency
Dating back to the 1960s, civilians living in the United States were not only deprived of the required knowledge pertaining to the environment but also unknowingly aided in the depletion of the ecology due to a lack of awareness.
As the ecological consciousness, crept into the mind of citizens, gradually, understanding that there are contaminants present in the actions individuals execute relating to industries especially was the need of the hour.
While such comprehension took a while to set in the minds, on the other hand, the intoxication of chemicals began its game and vehemently affected the health of humans, the quality of flowers and plants, the habitat of animals, and the climate on this planet.
Hence a body, that could regulate as well as diminish the effect of such chemicals, was essential to bring into existence, thus the initiation of the Environmental Protection Agency by President Richard Nixon.
The functions of three federal departments mainly, such as of Interior, Agriculture, and Health, Education, and Welfare were transferred to EPA with immediate effect, followed by defining the aim of the agency to consolidate, analyze, and better the knowledge pertaining to the environment and public health amongst the citizens of the nation.
While spreading awareness was one of the functions of the agency, dealing with the crisis present at hand required all attention. Hence, the EPA was responsible to put in motion the administration of the Clean Air Act of 1970, which was brought to play to decrease air pollution that primarily rose from industries and motor vehicles.
Followed by the management of the Federal Environmental Pesticide Control Act 1972 as well as the Clean Water Act 1972, to not only manage municipal and industrial wastewater releases but also to provide grants for developing methods to treat sewage wastage.
It was only by the mid-1990s, that the EPA became fully authorized and was entitled to enforce 12 major statutes, that comprised of laws curated to take account of the uranium mill tailings, minimizing ocean dumping as well as providing safe drinking water, focusing on the functionality of insecticides, fungicides, and rodenticides and eradicating asbestos hazards in schools.
From having the laws pertaining to air and water quality reinforced and strengthened, introducing new regulations such as for initiating the process for testing the presence of asbestos in all primary and secondary schools, reauthorization of regulations such as the Clean Water Act in 1987 and the Clean Air Act in 1990 to bring in to existence new statues such as the Nuclear Waste Policy Act 1982 and the Energy Star program 1992, the Environmental Protection Agency, began fulfilling its mission in full force.
Adding on the same lines, the agency also took under their umbrella the curation of Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act known as EPCRA, which entitles the local communities to be aware of the contaminants discharged by industries in their vicinity as well as aided the aforementioned groups in planning emergency methods if such hazardous substances are released.
6. The Enforcement of Law via the Environmental Protection Agency
From bringing into existence statutes such as Clean Air Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, the National Environmental Education Act, and the Clean Water Act to identifying environmental crimes, providing justice for the same, monitoring pollution levels as well as putting ahead guidelines for dealing with dangerous pollutants and waste, the Environmental Protection Agency’s job is to protect the people, the health and most importantly the ecological balance.
As the EPA’s role also comprises enforcing laws pertaining to its core ideology, it is responsible for investigating and holding the violators liable if in case they pursue actions against the law.
Categorized under two segments, Civil and Criminal, the former is tagged when violations pertaining to the environment take place, and no consideration is given to whether the violator was aware of their transgression. The latter is marked when an action against the law is executed by the violator and the said person is aware that such an act will have legal consequences.
It must be kept in mind, due to the intensity of the charges and the punishments, criminal convictions require proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
From indulging in the payment of monetary fines to providing rectification for the damage caused to the environment, a person can be charged under the civil category whereas, in case of criminal violations, a person can be liable for monetary compensation or for imprisonment depending upon the severity of the crime.
From understanding the concept of the Environmental Protection Agency, the purpose for its rise, and the role it performs, to how the agency can charge an individual for violating environmental laws, the Environmental Protection Agency, not only has brought revolutions with regard to public health and environment sector but also has changed the modus operandi of the legal system.
One can say, the Environmental Protection Agency has served as a knight in shining armor for nature!