environmental protection

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

U.S. government agency that sets and enforces national pollution-control standards. It was established by Pres. Richard Nixon (1970) to supersede a welter of confusing and ineffective state environmental laws. Its early accomplishments include banning the use of DDT (1972), setting deadlines for the removal of lead from gasoline (1973), establishing health standards for drinking water (1974), and monitoring fuel efficiency in automobiles (1975). The EPA's enforcement was in large part responsible for a decline of one-third to one-half in most air-pollution emissions in the U.S. from 1970 to 1990, and during the 1980s the pollution standards index improved by half in major cities; water quality and waste disposal also improved significantly. The EPA also oversees the cleanup of abandoned waste sites through Superfund. Its existence has resulted in heightened awareness and concern for the environment worldwide.

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The Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty, also known as the Antarctic-Environmental Protocol is part of the Antarctic Treaty System. It provides for comprehensive protection of the Antarctic environment and dependent and associated ecosystems.

It opened for signature on October 4 1991 and entered into force seven years later on January 14 1998.

Key Articles of the Treaty

  • Article 3 states that protection of the Antarctic environment as a wilderness with aesthetic and scientific value shall be a "fundamental consideration" of activities in the area.
  • Article 7 states that "Any activity relating to mineral resources, other than scientific research, shall be prohibited." This provision contrasts with the rejected Convention on the Regulation of Antarctic Mineral Resource Activities, which would have allowed mining under the control and taxation of an international managing body similar to the International Seabed Authority.
  • Article 8 requires environmental assessment for all activities, including tourism.
  • Article 11 creates a Committee for Environmental Protection for the continent.
  • Article 15 calls for member states to be prepared for emergency response actions in the area.
  • Articles 18-20 arrange for arbitration of international disputes regarding Antarctica.
  • Article 25(5) states that the Article 7 ban on mining may not be repealed unless a future treaty establishes a binding regulatory framework for such activity.


The treaty has been ratified by 27 parties — Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile, the People's Republic of China, Ecuador, Finland, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, Poland, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom, United States, and Uruguay

A further 16 — Austria, Canada, Colombia, Cuba, Czech Republic, Denmark, Greece, Guatemala, Hungary, North Korea, Papua New Guinea, Romania, Slovakia, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine — have signed but not yet ratified it.

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