The Value of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Read the full post from the Northeast Recycling Council. To see what things looked like in EPA’s earliest years, see pictures from EPA’s DOCUMERICA project.

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:

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