What does the environmental protection agency do?

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was established in December 1970 by the executive order of President Richard Nixon.

It is an agency of the United States federal government whose mission is to protect human and environmental health. Headquartered in Washington, D.C.

, the EPA is responsible for creating standards and laws promoting the health of individuals and the environment.

Why was the EPA created? It was formed in response to widespread public environmental concerns that gained momentum in the 1950s and 1960s. From the EPA’s creation, it has sought to protect and conserve the natural environment and improve the health of humans by researching the effects of and mandating limits on the use of pollutants.

The EPA regulates the manufacturing, processing, distribution, and use of chemicals and other pollutants. In addition, the EPA is charged with determining safe tolerance levels for chemicals and other pollutants in food, animal feed, and water.

The EPA enforces its findings through fines, sanctions, and other procedures.

Under the Trump administration, the EPA’s recent regulations of carbon emissions from power plants, automobiles, and other contributors to climate change, instituted by President Obama, are largely being rolled back.

The EPA’s size and influence have also been diminished, and criminal prosecutions for those who aren’t following regulations are at a 30-year low.

  • The Environmental Protection Agency is a United States federal government agency whose mission is to protect human and environmental health. 
  • The EPA regulates the manufacturing, processing, distribution, and use of chemicals and other pollutants.
  • The agency enforces its findings through fines, sanctions, and other procedures. 
  • It oversees programs to promote energy efficiency, environmental stewardship, sustainable growth, air and water quality, and pollution prevention. 
  • Some of the areas that aren’t covered by the EPA include wildlife, wetlands, food safety, and nuclear waste.

The EPA oversees a number of programs intended to promote energy efficiency, environmental stewardship, sustainable growth, air and water quality, and pollution prevention. These programs include:

  • The EPA Safer Choice program—formerly Design for the Environment—a product-labeling program that allows consumers to select the chemically safest products available, without sacrificing function or quality
  • The Energy Star program, which helps consumers choose energy-efficient appliances
  • The Smart Growth program, which supports sustainable community development
  • WaterSense, which encourages efficiency in water use via high-efficiency toilets, faucets, and irrigation equipment
  • The National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, which regulates the discharge of pollutants into U.S. waters

The EPA protects human health and the environment with programs such as Safer Choice and the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System.

The EPA also runs programs to

  • Prevent, control, and respond to oil spills
  • Control air pollution and forecast air pollution levels
  • Foster the manufacturing of more fuel-efficient vehicles

The EPA works to enforce laws such as the Clean Air Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, the National Environmental Education Act, and the Clean Water Act, some of which predate the formation of the agency itself.

The EPA is also responsible for the detection and prevention of environmental crimes, monitoring pollution levels, and setting standards for the handling of hazardous chemicals and waste.

Because of its name, there tends to be some confusion about what the EPA does and doesn’t do. It doesn’t handle every issue or concern that affects the environment. The agency suggests contacting local, state, or other federal agencies to find out who is responsible.

For example, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is responsible for the Endangered Species Act, while local and state wildlife officers are responsible for concerns about foxes, birds, rabbits, and other animals. The U.S.

Army Corps of Engineers is the agency that determines and issues permits for wetland areas.

Food safety is the responsibility of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), while issues about nuclear waste are handled by the Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management.

5 Reasons to Like the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

President Richard M. Nixon, a Republican, established the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in December 1970.

Forty eight years later, Donald J. Trump made abolishing the agency a talking point in his presidential campaign. His first EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, cut climate monitoring programs, proposed new rules on how science is reported and rolled back clean car standards before resigning in July, following a string of personal controversies.

The recent headlines might lead you to wonder: Why do we have an EPA, anyway, and what does it do?

Nixon didn’t really want to create it.

The first EPA administrator, William Ruckelshaus, a third-generation Republican lawyer and politician from Indiana, later recalled that Nixon created the EPA “because of public outrage about what was happening to the environment.

Not because Nixon shared that concern, but because he didn't have any choice.” That April, 20 million Americans had gone outside to participate in the first Earth Day celebrations.

Nixon had other things on his mind. Six days after Earth Day, he authorized American troops in Vietnam to invade Cambodia, an action that brought more demonstrators into the streets. To Nixon, according to Ruckelshaus, antiwar protesters and environmentalists were birds of a feather—“both reflected weakness in the American character.”

After establishing the EPA, Nixon took little interest in its work. “Every time I'd meet with him, he would just lecture me about the 'crazies' in the agency and advise me not to be pushed around by them,” said Ruckelshaus. “He never once asked me, 'Is there anything wrong with the environment? Is the air really bad? Is it hurting people?'”

In fact, it was. There were many things wrong with the environment in 1970. Here are five ways our world has changed for the better since then, thanks in part to the EPA.

The way we were: Smoke and smog cloak the sky over Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in December 1936. The EPA began regulating air pollution soon after it was created in 1970.

Photograph by Margaret Bourke-White, The LIFE Picture Collection, Getty Images

Before the government began to rein in pollution from smokestacks and tailpipes, dense, dark, and even choking smog was a frequent occurrence in American cities and towns.

In 1948, spectators at a football game in Donora, Pennsylvania, couldn’t see the players or the ball because of smog from a nearby coal-fired zinc smelter; 20 people died.

In Los Angeles in the 1960s, smog often hid the mountains.

The Clean Air Act of 1970 gave EPA the authority to regulate harmful air pollutants. One of the most dramatic success stories was lead, which was widely used in paint but also in gasoline to improve engine performance. EPA estimated that more than 5,000 Americans were dying every year from heart disease linked to lead poisoning; many children were growing up with diminished IQ.

Our Mission and What We Do | US EPA

The mission of EPA is to protect human health and the environment.

EPA works to ensure that:

  • Americans have clean air, land and water;
  • National efforts to reduce environmental risks are based on the best available scientific information;
  • Federal laws protecting human health and the environment are administered and enforced fairly, effectively and as Congress intended;
  • Environmental stewardship is integral to U.S. policies concerning natural resources, human health, economic growth, energy, transportation, agriculture, industry, and international trade, and these factors are similarly considered in establishing environmental policy;
  • All parts of society–communities, individuals, businesses, and state, local and tribal governments–have access to accurate information sufficient to effectively participate in managing human health and environmental risks;
  • Contaminated lands and toxic sites are cleaned up by potentially responsible parties and revitalized; and
  • Chemicals in the marketplace are reviewed for safety.

When Congress writes an environmental law, we implement it by writing regulations. Often, we set national standards that states and tribes enforce through their own regulations. If they fail to meet the national standards, we can help them. We also enforce our regulations, and help companies understand the requirements.

Learn more:

Nearly half of our budget goes into grants to state environmental programs, non-profits, educational institutions, and others. They use the money for a wide variety of projects, from scientific studies that help us make decisions to community cleanups. Overall, grants help us achieve our overall mission: protect human health and the environment.

Learn more:

At laboratories located throughout the nation, we identify and try to solve environmental problems. To learn even more, we share information with other countries, private sector organizations, academic institutions, and other agencies.

Learn more:

We don't protect the environment on our own.  We work with businesses, non-profit organizations, and state and local governments through dozens of partnerships. A few examples include conserving water and energy, minimizing greenhouse gases, re-using solid waste, and getting a handle on pesticide risks. In return, we share information and publicly recognize our partners.

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Teach people about the environment

Protecting the environment is everyone's responsibility, and starts with understanding the issues. The basics include reducing how much energy and materials you use, reusing what you can and recycling the rest. There's a lot more about that to learn!

  • Learn about environmental issues
  • View our site for students and educators

Publish information

Through written materials and this website, EPA informs the public about our activities.

What we don't do

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

  • Statement:
  • Protect, restore, and sustain the quality of rivers, lakes, streams, and wetlands on a watershed basis, and sustainably manage and protect coastal and ocean resources and ecosystems.
  • Description:

People and the ecological integrity of aquatic systems rely on healthy watersheds.  EPA employs a suite of programs to protect and improve water quality in the nation’s watersheds—rivers, lakes, wetlands, and streams—as well as in our estuarine, coastal, and ocean waters.

 In partnership with states, territories, local governments, and tribes, EPA’s core water programs help:

  • Protect, restore, maintain, and improve water quality by financing wastewater treatment infrastructure;
  • Conduct monitoring and assessment;
  • Establish pollution reduction targets;
  • Update water quality standards;
  • Issue and enforce discharge permits; and,
  • Implement programs to prevent or reduce nonpoint source pollution.

While promoting sustainable management of municipal wastewater and stormwater infrastructure, we will work with federal, state, and local partners to bring appropriate and effective solutions to small, rural, and disadvantaged communities.

 EPA will continue to promote robust planning that includes an assessment of green, sustainable alternatives, and will continue to work with municipalities on implementing the integrated planning process for wastewater and stormwater management on a case-by-case basis.[1]

We will also work more aggressively to reduce and control pollutants that are discharged from industrial, municipal, agricultural, and stormwater sources, and vessels, as well as to implement programs to prevent and reduce pollution that washes off the land during rain events.

  By promoting green infrastructure and sustainable landscape management, EPA will help restore natural hydrologic systems and the health of aquatic ecosystems to reduce pollution from stormwater events.

[2]  The Agency is exploring innovative approaches to meeting the 21st century water quality challenges with streamlined permitting and oversight processes supported by modernized data management and technologies.

To provide information on the ecological and recreational condition of the nation’s waters and the key stressors impacting those waters, EPA will continue to work with states and tribes to implement the National Aquatic Resource Surveys, including the National Rivers and Streams Assessment, the National Coastal Condition Assessment, the National Wetland Condition Assessment, and the National Lakes Assessment.[3]  These probability-based surveys provide nationally consistent and scientifically-defensible assessments of our nation's waters.  These data will support EPA and our partners in identifying priority actions to protect and restore water quality and in assessing whether collective efforts are improving water quality over time as water conditions are altered in response to climate change.

Over the next 4 years, EPA will continue efforts to restore water bodies that do not meet water quality standards, preserve and protect high-quality aquatic resources, and protect, restore, and improve wetland acreage and quality.

  The Agency will improve the way existing tools are used, explore how innovative tools can be applied, and enhance efforts and cross-media collaboration to protect and prevent water quality impairment in healthy watersheds.

 The Agency will use the National Aquatic Resource Survey to track the effectiveness of these combined efforts at protecting and improving water quality over time.

Results from the National Aquatic Resource Survey reinforce EPA’s commitment to address nitrogen and phosphorus pollution as among the most serious and pervasive water quality problems.  Programs for controlling nonpoint sources of pollution are key to reducing the number of impaired waters nationwide.

 The programs provide a multi-faceted approach to the problem, combining innovative development strategies to help leverage traditional tools.

  In addition to working with state, tribal, and local partners, EPA is collaborating with USDA to implement its National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI) and collaborating on other geographically-based initiatives.

  Coordination of EPA’s nonpoint source (CWA Section 319) grant funds and USDA Farm Bill funds is intended to protect water quality more effectively from runoff from agricultural lands and demonstrate improved effectiveness.

  USDA launched the NWQI in FY 2012, which targets 5 percent of USDA’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program resources for water quality improvements in 165 specific watersheds across the nation.  EPA is collaborating closely with USDA as it implements this program, and is now requiring states to assess water quality results in NWQI watersheds through Section 319 grant funds or other funding sources.

Development and implementation of total maximum daily loads (TMDLs) for CWA Section 303(d) listed impaired waterbodies is a critical tool for meeting water quality restoration goals.

  The CWA 303(d) listing and TMDL program has engaged with states to implement a new 10-year vision for the program to more effectively achieve the water quality goals of each state.

  The approach involves fostering effective integration across multiple programs, statutes, and agencies—CWA point and nonpoint source programs, other statutory programs within EPA’s jurisdiction (e.g.

, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act [CERCLA], Resource Conservation and Recovery Act [RCRA], SDWA, and Clean Air Act [CAA]), and the water quality efforts of other federal agencies (e.g., the Departments of Agriculture, Interior, and Commerce).

  As part of this effort, EPA will continue to encourage states to identify priority waters for assessment, for development of TMDLs and other restoration plans for impaired segments, and for pursuit of protection approaches for unimpaired waters.  EPA will work with states and other partners to develop and implement activities and watershed plans to restore and protect these waters.     

In partnership with states, tribes, and local communities, EPA is implementing a clean water strategy that explores ways to improve the condition of the urban waterways that may have been overlooked or under-represented in local environmental problem solving.  The Agency will continue to play an active role as a member of the Urban Waters Federal Partnership to promote more efficient and effective use of federal resources and build new partnerships with states, tribes, local entities, and the private sector.

EPA will also lead efforts to restore and protect aquatic ecosystems and wetlands, particularly in key geographic areas[4], to address complex and cross-boundary challenges.  Key geographic areas in the national water program include the Chesapeake Bay, the Great Lakes, the Gulf of Mexico, the U.S.

-Mexico Border region, the Pacific Islands, Long Island Sound, the South Florida Ecosystem, the Puget Sound Basin, the Columbia River Basin, and the San Francisco Bay Delta Estuary.

 EPA will continue to work with and involve states, tribes, and interested stakeholders to set and achieve goals in these geographic areas.

EPA is heading up a multi-agency effort to restore and protect the Great Lakes through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.[5]  In other parts of the nation, we will focus on nutrient pollution, which threatens the long-term health of important ecosystems such as the Chesapeake Bay.

 EPA will continue to work with states, tribes, and stakeholders in the Mississippi River Basin on nutrient pollution that is affecting the health of the Gulf of Mexico.

 Further, given the environmental catastrophe resulting from the Deepwater Horizon BP oil spill, EPA will continue to take necessary actions to support efforts of federal and state trustees in the natural resource damage assessment to restore the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem.

 EPA shares in the role of being a Natural Resource Trustee with responsibility to conduct the natural resource damage assessment for the spill.  In addition, EPA is also a member of the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, established under the RESTORE Act[6], to restore the ecosystem and economy of the Gulf Coast region.

  Monitoring in the Gulf of Mexico under the National Aquatic Resource Survey will be important to fully document the long-term impacts of the spill and track the recovery of wetland and near-shore estuarine resources.  This long-term effort by EPA and the states is an important complement to the project-specific and special-focus monitoring efforts underway as part of the Natural Resource Damage Assessment and BP Research funds.

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To respond and adapt to the current and potential impacts of a changing climate on aquatic resources, including the current and potential impacts associated with warming temperatures, changes in rainfall amount and intensity, and sea level rise, EPA has developed a “National Water Program 2012 Strategy:  Response to Climate Change.”  This strategy sets out long-term goals and specific actions contributing to national efforts to prepare for, and build resilience to, impacts of a changing climate on water resources.  EPA is working with state, tribal, and local governments, as well as other partners, to implement actions addressing climate change challenges to the protection of water infrastructure, coastal and ocean waters, watersheds, and water quality.[7]  For example, EPA has developed the Climate Resilience Evaluation and Assessment Tool (CREAT) to help water utilities assess vulnerability to a changing climate and take response actions.  EPA is also defining actions that states can take starting in 2015 to adapt core clean water and drinking water programs (e.g., state revolving loan funds, water quality standards, and drinking water sanitary surveys) to a changing climate.

External Factors and Emerging Issues

  • Water Quality:  Water quality programs face challenges such as increases in nutrient loadings and stormwater runoff, aging infrastructure, and population growth (which can increase water consumption and place additional stress on aging water infrastructures).  The Agency is carefully examining the potential impacts of and solutions to these issues, including effects on water quality and quantity that could result in the long term from a changing climate.  The Agency will continue implementing the National Aquatic Resource Surveys to support collection of nationally consistent data to support these efforts.  The Agency will also continue to implement the WaterSense program as a means to help communities address challenges posed by water scarcity through demand management.[8]
  • Population Density:  In 2010, 52 percent of the U.S. population lived in coastal watershed counties which comprise less than 20 percent of the total land area of the U.S., excluding Alaska.  The population density of coastal watershed counties is over five times greater than the corresponding inland counties.  If current population trends continue, the already crowded U.S. coast will see population grow from 123 million people to nearly 134 million people by 2020, placing more of the population at increased risk from a changing climate and exposing these fragile coastal ecosystems to greater pressures.  Population growth in coastal watershed counties is impacting water quality and other coastal resources within National Estuary Program (NEP) study areas.  NEPs work to address the impacts of growth by focusing their long-term management and annual work plans on priorities such as stormwater management, reduction of excess nutrient loadings, and promotion of low-impact development and green infrastructure.  Also, EPA’s climate-ready estuaries program provides the capacity for NEPs and coastal stakeholders to develop vulnerability assessments.[9]

Technology Market Opportunities:  EPA is working both internally and with external partners and stakeholders to discuss plans for advancing innovative technologies that will be important to the continued protection and restoration of waters.

  Some key market opportunities for innovative technology to help address current and emerging water resource issues were identified in EPA’s “Blueprint for Integrating Technology Innovation into the National Water Program.

”[10]  They include:

  • Energy reduction and recovery at drinking water and wastewater facilities;
  • Nutrient recovery from wastewater;
  • Improving and “greening” the nation's infrastructure;
  • Water reuse;
  • Improved and less expensive monitoring;
  • Improving reliability of small drinking water systems;
  • Technology evaluation and performance;
  • Reducing water impacts from domestic energy production;
  • Resiliency of water infrastructure; and,
  • Improving water quality of oceans, estuaries, and watersheds.


  1. For information on the Integrated Planning process, see http://cfpub.epa.gov/npdes/integratedplans.cfm.
  2. For information on managing wet weather with green infrastructure, see http://cfpub.epa.gov/npdes/home.cfm?program_id=298.
  3. For information on National Aquatic Resource Surveys, see http://water.epa.gov/type/watersheds/monitoring/aquaticsurvey_index.cfm.
  4. For more information on these programs and their performance measures, see the annual National Water Program Guidance, available at http://www.epa.gov/water/waterplan/index.html.
  5. Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is focused on toxic substances and areas of concern, invasive species, nearshore health and nonpoint source pollution, habitats and species, and integrated solutions to cross-cutting issues.  Information is available at http://greatlakesrestoration.us/.
  6. Please see http://www.restorethegulf.gov/council/about-gulf-coast-ecosystem-restoration-council.
  7.  EPA National Water Program 2012 Strategy:  Response to Climate Change, information available at http://water.epa.gov/scitech/climatechange/2012-National-Water-Program-Strategy.cfm.  United States Global Change Research Program, information available at http://www.globalchange.gov/resources/reports.
  8. For information on WaterSense,  see http://www.epa.gov/watersense/.
  9. For information on climate-ready estuaries, see http://water.epa.gov/type/oceb/cre/index.cfm.
  10. “Blueprint for Integrating Technology Innovation into the National Water Program,” information is available at http://water.epa.gov/blueprint.cfm.

Learn More




Since its inception, the EPA has often failed to be perceived as a protector of the environment, instead being seen as a federal facilitator of industry interests.

From energy and chemical companies, automobile manufacturers and mining consortiums to the manufacturing industry writ broad, the EPA frequently finds itself embroiled in conflict between corporate interests, political pressure and conservationists. 

EPA Memo Links Pesticide to Honey Bee Die-off

An Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) memo surfaced in 2010 that attributed the massive die-off of honeybees to the pesticide clothianidin. The revelation sparked calls for the government to ban the chemical produced by Bayer CropScience. Clothianidin has been banned in Germany, where it was first made and where another wave of honeybee deaths occurred, since 2008.

  • The EPA took no action against the pesticide, even though it was revealed, in a leaked memo, that its own scientists had deemed “deficient” the one study submitted to the agency in the chemical’s provisional approval process.
  • Subsequently, a study from Purdue University showed that honeybees’ exposure to clothianidin was greater than previously thought by scientists, and that it continues to poison bees during the whole foraging season, even if it isn’t applied to the plants at that time.
  • The EPA is reviewing clothianidin’s registration and plans to complete the review by 2018.
  • The Clothianidin Controversy (Culinate)
  • EPA Defends Approval of Bayer's Bee-Killing Pesticide (by Sarah Parsons, Change.org)
  • Study Shows Honey Bees Exposed to High Levels of Bee-Killing Pesticide (Beyond Pesticides Daily News Blog)
  • Clear Skies

The Clear Skies Initiative was announced by President George W. Bush in 2002 and was presented to Congress as the Clear Skies Act in 2003. Clear Skies was an amendment to the 1963 Clean Air Act, ostensibly purposed to reduce air pollution.

But Clear Skies won a host of critics, including members of Congress and various conservationist groups such as the Sierra Club and the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC). Its critics called Clear Skies propaganda created to mask relaxed regulations on polluting industries.

 Among the fallibilities of the Clear Skies Act, it would allow an additional 42 million tons of pollution to be emitted by industry and weaken controls on mercury and nitrogen oxide set by the existing Clean Air Act.        

As the Clear Skies Act was unfolding, the EPA was bending to presidential pressure that sought to undermine the New Source Review (NSW). The NSW is a key element of the Clean Air Act that allows for older power plants and factories to continue operations in expectation of the factory’s immanent retirement.

However, NSW requires older plants to install modern air pollution controls if they make changes that increase their traditional emission levels. In 2003, the EPA acquiesced and adopted changes that relax restrictions on 20,000 facilities.

These facilities represent the nation’s industrial base and include power plants, chemical plants, incinerators, iron and steel foundries, paper mills, cement plants, and a broad array of manufacturing facilities. 

When last introduced to Congress in 2005, the Clear Skies Act was effectively blocked, but the damage was done in the public’s opinion of the EPA.

The EPA, whose job it is to provide scientific facts on proposed legislation, was expected to analyze Clear Skies through an empirical lens.

However, as opposed to critiquing the Clear Skies Act, the EPA, headed at the time by Administrator Christine Todd Whitman, supported the measure regardless of its flagrant fallibilities.

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Senate and House – Clear Skies Act 2003-2005 Clean Air Act (Wikipedia) Clear Skies Act (Wikipedia) Sierra Club – Clear Skies


Following the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City on September 11, 2001, the White House directed the EPA to funnel all of their media communications through the National Security Council.

As a result, the danger of airborne particles was diluted at the direction of the Bush administration.

Rescue workers as well as other New Yorkers who lived or worked in the area were affected; many have experienced Ground Zero illness, a respiratory condition resulting from inhaling alkaline particulates and asbestos. 

The 9/11 controversy came to light in August 2003, following the release of a report by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the EPA. The OIG report traced the White House’s influence on the EPA, beginning on September 12 when a memo was issued throughout the EPA saying all statements to the media must be cleared with the National Security Council. The EPA, and then-administrator Christine Todd Whitman, issued a public statement on September 18, saying the air around Ground Zero was safe. Rudy Giuliani, then mayor of New York City, echoed the safety statement. The OIG report found that the EPA did not have sufficient data on September 18 to issue such a statement of air safety and that the Bush administration pressured the EPA to remove cautionary information regarding air safety hazards at Ground Zero, apparently in order to keep Wall Street operating. 

In a 2006 class action suit on behalf of New York residents and schoolchildren in the Ground Zero vicinity, a federal judge for the court district in Manhattan recognized that the EPA failed in its responsibility to protect New Yorkers, and ruled that Whitman made statements that mislead the public regarding safety. In June 2007, the U.S.

Government Accountability Office found that the public was misled by federal environmental officials about the extent of air contamination following the 9/11 attacks. However, a panel of judges in 2008 ruled that Whitman could not be held liable for false public statements she made regarding Manhattan air quality in the weeks following 9/11.

In November 2010, plaintiffs in the lawsuit against New York City accepted a settlement designed to pay $625 million to more than 10,000 workers who have experienced health problems. By then, the number of first responders who died from 9/11-caused illnesses had reached 1,000.

On January 2, 2011, President Barack Obama signed into law the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, which provides $4.2 billion over the next five years for health care to emergency workers who suffered illnesses as a result of the rescue efforts they made on the day of the terrorist attacks. The law also includes a Victim Compensation Fund to assist attack victims. The original bill proposed $7.4 billion for victim compensation, but it was derailed by Republican opposition. EPA Response to September 11 The poisonous legacy of 9/11 (by Andrew Stephen, NewStatesman) Health effects arising from the September 11 attacks (Wikipedia) EPA 9/11 pollution controversy (Wikipedia) Senate Republicans Block 9/11 Health Bill (Reuters) Congress Approves 9/11 Health Bill (WNYC News) Obama Signs Bill To Help 9/11 Workers (New York Times)

Christine Todd Whitman

Leadership of the EPA has fluctuated in ideologies over the years, often following a presidential trend. The Agency was run during the 1970s by Russell Train, who later served as President of the World Wildlife Fund, and by Douglas Costle, a former civil rights attorney appointed to the EPA by President Jimmy Carter.

Conversely, the EPA has existed under the leadership of Lee M. Thomas, who went on the become President and Chief Operating Officer of paper giant, Georgia-Pacific Corporation, and by William K. Reilly who has been a director of oil consortium, ConocoPhillips, and chemical megalith DuPont.

Paradoxically, Reilly was also president of the World Wildlife Fund and the Conservation Foundation.

Yet no director has proved as controversial as Christine Todd Whitman, who served as the Administrator of the EPA from 2001–2003. Shortly after taking office in January 2001, the World Trade Center was attacked and the 9/11 controversy began to unfold (see section above). In addition to lying to the public about the dangerous state of air around Ground Zero, financial affiliations have come to light that place Whitman’s dishonesty within the framework of personal gain, not simply bending to presidential pressure. Christine Whitman’s husband, John R. Whitman is a former Citigroup vice-president and still manages hundreds of millions of dollars of the bank’s assets. As a result of the air conditions at Ground Zero, Travelers Insurance, which is a Citigroup subsidiary, stood to loose millions in medical claims. The previous year in 2000, John Whitman received a six-figure bonus from Citigroup. During her time at the EPA, Whitman also challenged the validity of a government-commissioned report that suggested anthropogenic or human-caused elements of global warming.   Christine Todd Whitman is related to President George Bush’s family. Her brother, Webster B. Todd, married Sheila O'Keefe, the stepdaughter of James Wear Walker, whose sister Dorothy Walker Bush was the mother of George H.W. Bush and grandmother of George W. Bush. Christine Todd Whitman graduated from Wheaton College in 1968 with a bachelor’s degree in government. She headed the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities before becoming governor of New Jersey in 1994. She served as New Jersey’s governor until 2001.  Sourcewatch: Christine Todd Whitman

State-Mandated Emissions

During President George W. Bush’s administration, California and 16 other states were embroiled in a battle with the EPA over the states’ right to set their own emissions standards for automobiles.

The states have wanted to mandate tougher emission standards to reduce their pollution levels, especially carbon dioxide. But on December 19, 2007, the federal government via the EPA ruled against the state’s authority to set emission standards.

Many suspect the decision was motivated by the automobile industry, which was in strict opposition to the state’s higher standards. 

Democratic California Rep.

Henry Waxman, then-chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said the decision not only had important ramifications to the health of the nation, but also raised concern about the integrity of the EPA’s decision-making process.

Waxman noted that then-EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson overruled the unanimous recommendations of the EPA’s legal and technical teams. In addition, 16 of the states, including California, sued the EPA over the decision.

Immediately after taking office in January 2009, President Barack Obama—fulfilling a campaign promise—reversed Bush administration policy by directing federal regulators to grant a waiver to California and 13 other states, allowing them to set their own emission standards. In addition to California, the states include: New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and Arizona.

EPA Decision to Block State Emissions Plans Raises Policy Debate (PBS)

Conflicts of Interest

Conflicts of Interest at EPA (Committee on Oversight and Government Reform)

  1.             Times)
  2.             Working Group)
  3. Defunding the EPA

EPA budget cuts stir controversy (Gargoyle)

Greenhouse Gases: Not a Problem

In February 2011, a bipartisan group of legislators launched an effort to block or delay the EPA from regulating greenhouses gases under various environmental laws, including the Clean Air Act, as well as reverse previous EPA actions.

Two of the bills would undo President Obama’s 2009 California waiver grant and prevent the EPA from granting the state a future waiver. Republicans have also introduced a funding measure to block certain EPA regulations.

In addition to these congressional actions, over 80 lawsuits have been filed against EPA greenhouse gas regulations.

In an action to save industry money, the Obama administration—in May 2011—announced reforms at the EPA that included easing a rule that had classified milk as an oil, since that rule was found to be an unjustifiable burden to dairy farmers; and lifting the requirement that gas stations have air pollution recovery systems, because it claims that modern cars do that job. It was said that the first reform will save the industry $1 billion in the coming decade, and the latter will save $60 million annually.

EPA Chief Said To Have Ignored Staff. (by Janet Wilson, Los Angeles Times)

  •             (by Russell Prugh, Marten Law)
  • (Greenberg Quinlan Rossner)
  •             Walke, Grist)

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