EPA Celebrates Turning 40 with Events Across the Country

WASHINGTON, DC, December 2, 2010 (ENS) – Today marked the 40th anniversary of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, an event commemorated by EPA staff and by other groups and individuals.

EPA was officially created by President Richard Nixon on December 2, 1970, the result of a growing grassroots movement for clean air, clean water and clean land.

At an event with EPA staff at EPA headquarters that was broadcast to the regional offices, Administrator Lisa Jackson said this anniversary celebration is very special to her personally.

“I started my career at this agency,” Jackson told her staff. “I came to EPA because of my love of science, and because I wanted to use that love of science to help people. I came to EPA because of the value I placed on the natural environment, after growing up on the Gulf Coast in New Orleans, living by the water and studying in the wetlands.”

“As it is for so many of you, the protection of our health and the environment is not just my job – it’s my lifelong passion,” Jackson said.

Looking back over the EPA’s accomplishments since she took over as administrator in January 2009, Jackson said, “We have built a strong foundation for the seven priorities that will shape EPA’s future in the next 40 years.” She defined these seven priorities early in her term and recounted for staff today what actions the agency has taken to make them a reality.

Celebration of the 40th Anniversary of EPA and Earth Day on the National Mall, April 2010. (Photo courtesy EPA)

“We are Taking Action on Climate Change through the Endangerment Finding and the clean cars program.

We are Improving Air Quality with tough new standards for smog, the first national limits to reduce mercury from cement plants and the first new standards for NO2 in 35 years.

“We are Assuring the Safety of Chemicals with specific action plans for managing widely-used chemicals.

“We are Cleaning Up Communities, primarily through swift implementation of the Recovery Act. That effort funded numerous Superfund and Brownfields cleanups, along with investments in water infrastructure, clean diesel technology, and repairs to leaking underground storage tanks.

“We are Protecting America’s Waters with new levels of engagement in the Chesapeake Bay, the Great Lakes, Puget Sound and the Gulf of Mexico.

“We are Expanding the Conversation on Environmentalism and Working for Environmental Justice by welcoming new voices to these discussions and issuing guidance on how every office can incorporate EJ into their decision making.

And last but certainly not least,” Jackson said, “Building Strong State and Tribal Partnerships by working closely with our partners at the state level and relocating our Tribal initiatives into the Office of International and Tribal Affairs.”

Administrator Jackson was joined in expressing thanks to the EPA staff for their work by Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Department of Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger spoke to EPA employees via satellite upon being presented with the EPA Climate Change Champion Award.

“This is very meaningful to me, because I think taking care of the environment was really one of my main agendas when I became governor,” said Schwarzenegger, a Republican who hands the California helm to Democrat Jerry Brown in January.

“Seven years ago when I ran for governor I had a lot of the environmentalists protest me wherever I went because I was a Hummer driver,” Schwarzenegger said. “And the worst of all for them was that I had an “R” in front of me. I was a Republican, so they said, ‘What is he talking about, he’s going to protect the environment? He’s a Republican. He’s not going to do anything. We don’t believe him, we don’t trust him.'”

Schwarzenegger said he was inspired by the environmental accomplishments of Republicans from President Teddy Roosevelt to President Nixon who created the EPA 40 years ago, to Ronald Reagan, who as governor of California signed the landmark California Environmental Quality Act and as President presided over U.S. ratification of the Montreal Protocol to protect the ozone layer, to President H.W. Bush who approved the cap and trade system for sulfur dioxide that causes acid rain.

During his seven years as governor Schwarzenegger has championed reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles, and approved AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act, which was the first law in the world to reduce emissions and have a target of 80 percent reduction by 2050. He also established the precent-setting Low-Carbon Fuel Standard in California; and then escalated the California Renewable Portfolio Standard up to 33 percent.

In 2009, Administrator Jackson, after eight years of inaction on climate change, signed California’s waiver request that led to new, strict national standards for the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide for the whole country, but it would not have come if California had not acted first.

All this week, Jackson has participated in events to celebrate the agency’s 40th anniversary.

One of the highlights took place Monday, when the Aspen Institute, an international nonprofit dedicated to fostering enlightened leadership and open-minded dialogue, unveiled a list of 10 ways the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has strengthened America over the past 40 years. Administrator Jackson joined Aspen Institute President and CEO Walter Isaacson to discuss the list at event in Washington.

The EPA’s Top 10 List, with brief comments from Jackson:

  1. Removing Lead from Gasoline and from the Air – a change that has saved hundreds of thousands of lives.
  2. Removing the Acid from Rain – an innovative, cost-effective effort EPA undertook to handle a complex challenge.
  3. Clearing Secondhand Smoke – which helped children and families and everyone else live healthier lives.
  4. Vehicle Efficiency and Emissions Control – thanks to EPA, cars today are far cleaner than they were a generation ago.
  5. Controlling Toxic Substances – a critical children’s health issue.
  6. Banning Widespread Use of DDT – the subject of Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring; a chemical that was reported to be in nearly every meal in America; a toxin that almost wiped out our national symbol, the bald eagle; banned because of EPA’s efforts.
  7. Rethinking Waste as Materials – an effort that continues to grow in both utility and importance, especially as we deal more and more with electronic wastes.
  8. A Clean Environment for All/Environmental Justice – an issue that ensures we are reaching every single community, helping them see their stake in a clean environment, and empowering them to get there.
  9. Cleaner Water – something every American holds dear and one of the places where EPA touches our daily lives the most.
  10. The “Community Right to Know” Act – an essential part of the work we do.

Finally, tomorrow, December 3, Harvard University will hold a daylong conference in honor of EPA’s 40th anniversary with panel discussions featuring speakers from academia and the nonprofit and private sectors as well as EPA officials past and present. Speakers include founding EPA administrator William Ruckelshaus who served from 1970 to 1973 and again from 1983 to 1985.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2010. All rights reserved.