The year 1970 was a turning point for our nation’s environment. On January 2 of that year, President Richard Nixon signed the National Environmental Policy Act into law; and on December 2, his administration created the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The creation of EPA as an independent agency was the result of a rising tide of concern over our nation’s environment; the first Earth Day was held on April 22, 1970. With strong bipartisan support, legislators convinced the Nixon administration that a single agency was needed; one that would consolidate under a single umbrella a myriad of federal activities—including research, monitoring, standard-setting, and enforcement—to ensure the protection of our nation’s environment.
Looking back from the vantage of today’s fractured body politic, how did such a monumental bipartisan action take place? The nation’s air, water, land, wildlife, and indeed its citizens, were feeling the onslaught of decades of environmental neglect and pollution. Here are just a few examples: