independent agency

United States Environmental Protection Agency

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA or sometimes USEPA) is an agency of the federal government of the United States charged with protecting human health and with safeguarding the natural environment: air, water, and land. The EPA was proposed by President Richard Nixon and began operation on December 2, 1970, when it was passed by Congress, and signed into law by President Nixon, and has since been chiefly responsible for the environmental policy of the United States. It is led by its Administrator, who is appointed by the President of the United States. The EPA is not a Cabinet agency, but the Administrator is normally given cabinet rank. The current Administrator (as of 2007) is Stephen L. Johnson, and the current Deputy Administrator is Marcus Peacock. The agency has approximately 18,000 full-time employees.


The EPA employs 17,000 people in headquarters program offices, 10 regional offices, and 27 laboratories across the country. More than half of its staff are engineers, scientists, and environmental protection specialists; other groups include legal, public affairs, financial, and computer specialists.

The agency conducts environmental assessment, research, and education. It has the primary responsibility for setting and enforcing national standards under a variety of environmental laws, in consultation with state, tribal, and local governments. It delegates some permitting, monitoring, and enforcement responsibility to U.S. states and Native American tribes. EPA enforcement powers include fines, sanctions, and other measures.

The agency also works with industries and all levels of government in a wide variety of voluntary pollution prevention programs and energy conservation efforts.


On July 9, 1970, President Nixon transmitted Reorganization Plan No. 3 to the United States Congress by executive order, creating the EPA as a single, independent agency from a number of smaller arms of different federal agencies. Prior to the establishment of the EPA, the federal government was not structured to comprehensively regulate the pollutants which harm human health and degrade the environment. The EPA was assigned the task of repairing the damage already done to the natural environment and to establish new criteria to guide Americans in making a cleaner, safer America.

EPA offices

  • Office of Administration and Resources
  • Office of Air and Radiation
  • Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance
  • Office of Environmental Information
  • Office of Environmental Justice
  • Office of the Chief Financial Officer
  • Office of General Counsel
  • Office of Inspector General
  • Office of International Affairs
  • Office of Prevention, Pesticides, and Toxic Substances
  • Office of Research and Development
  • Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response
  • Office of Water

Each EPA regional office is responsible within its states for implementing the Agency's programs, except those programs that have been specifically delegated to states.

Each regional office also implements programs on Indian Tribal lands, except those programs delegated to Tribal authorities.

Related legislation

The legislation here is general environmental protection legislation, and may also apply to other units of the government, including the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture.




Endangered species

Hazardous waste

Air programs

Energy Star

In 1992 the EPA launched the Energy Star program, a voluntary program that fosters energy efficiency; in 2006 EPA launched WaterSense to similarly foster water efficiency. EPA also administers the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) (which is much older than the agency) and registers all pesticides legally sold in the United States. It is also responsible for reviewing projects of other federal agencies' Environmental Impact Statements under NEPA.

Fuel economy testing and results

American automobile manufacturers are required to use EPA fuel economy test results to advertise the gas mileage of their vehicles, and the manufacturers are disallowed from providing results from alternate sources. The fuel economy is calculated using the emissions data collected during two of the vehicle's Clean Air Act certification tests, by measuring the total volume of carbon captured from the exhaust during the test. This calculated fuel economy is then adjusted downward by 10% city and 22% highway to compensate for changes in driving conditions since 1972.

The current testing system was developed in 1972, and is a simulation of rush-hour Los Angeles of that era. Prior to 1984, the EPA did not adjust the fuel economy downward, and instead used the exact fuel economy figures calculated from the test. In December 2006, the EPA finalized new test methods to improve fuel economy and emission estimates, which would take effect with model year 2008 vehicles, setting the precedent of a 12 year review cycle on the test procedures.

As of the 2000s, most motor vehicle users report significantly lower real-world fuel economy than the EPA rating; this problem is most evident in hybrid vehicles. This is mainly because of drastic changes in typical driving habits and conditions which have occurred in the decades since the tests were implemented. For example, the average speed of the 1972 "highway" test is a mere 48 miles per hour (mph), with a top speed of 60 mph. It is expected that when the 2008 test methods are implemented, city estimates for non-hybrid cars will drop by 10-20%, city estimates for hybrid cars will drop by 20-30%, and highway estimates for all cars will drop by 5-15%. The new methods include factors such as high speeds, aggressive accelerations, air conditioning use and driving in cold temperatures.

In February 2005, the organization launched a program called " Your MPG" that allows drivers to add real-world fuel economy statistics into a database on the EPA's fuel economy website and compare them with others and the original EPA test results.

Air quality and air pollution

The Air Quality Modeling Group (AQMG) is in the EPA's Office of Air and Radiation (OAR) and provides leadership and direction on the full range of air quality models, air pollution dispersion models and other mathematical simulation techniques used in assessing pollution control strategies and the impacts of air pollution sources.

The AQMG serves as the focal point on air pollution modeling techniques for other EPA headquarters staff, EPA regional Offices, and State and local environmental agencies. It coordinates with the EPA's Office of Research and Development (ORD) on the development of new models and techniques, as well as wider issues of atmospheric research. Finally, the AQMG conducts modeling analyses to support the policy and regulatory decisions of the EPA's Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards (OAQPS).

The AQMG is located in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina.

Oil pollution prevention

SPCC - Spill Prevention Containment and Counter Measures. Secondary Containment mandated at oil storage facilities. Oil release containment at oil development sites.

Advance Identification

Advance Identification, or ADID, is a planning process used by the EPA to identify wetlands and other bodies of water and their respective suitability for the discharge of dredged and fill material. The EPA conducts the process in cooperation with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and local states or Native American Tribes. As of February 1993, 38 ADID projects had been completed and 33 were ongoing.


Air quality standards review

Since its inception the EPA has begun to rely less and less on its scientists and more on nonscience personnel. EPA has recently changed their policies regarding limits for ground-level ozone, particulates, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and lead. New policies will minimize scientist interaction with the agency and rely more on policy makers who have minimal scientific knowledge. This new policy has been criticized by Democrats. On March 12 2008, the Federal government of the United States reported that the air in hundreds of U.S. counties was simply too dirty to breathe, ordering a multibillion-dollar expansion of efforts to clean up smog in cities and towns nationwide.

Fuel economy

In July 2005, an EPA report showing that auto companies were using loopholes to produce less fuel-efficient cars was delayed. The report was supposed to be released the day before a controversial energy bill was passed and would have provided backup for those opposed to it, but at the last minute the EPA delayed its release.

The EPA has also come under fire from environmentalists for refusing to allow California and 16 other states to raise fuel economy standards for new cars. EPA administrator Stephen Johnson has claimed that the EPA is working on its own standards, but this move has been widely considered as an attempt to shield the auto industry from environmental regulation by setting lower standards at the federal level, which would then preempt state laws.

Global warming

In June 2005, a memo revealed Philip Cooney, former chief of staff for the White House Council on Environmental Quality, and former lobbyist for the American Petroleum Institute, had personally edited documents, summarizing government research on climate change, before their release.

Cooney resigned two days after the memo was published in The New York Times. Cooney said he had been planning to resign for over two years, implying the timing of his resignation was just a coincidence. Specifically, he said he had planned to resign to "spend time with his family. One week after resigning he took a job at Exxon Mobil in their public affairs department.

Greenhouse gas emissions

The Supreme Court ruled on April 2, 2007 in Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency that the EPA has the authority to regulate the emission of greenhouse gases in automobile emissions, stating that "greenhouse gases fit well within the Clean Air Act capacious definition of air pollutant." The court also stated that the EPA must regulate in this area unless it is able to provide a scientific reason for not doing so.

Jason K. Burnett, former EPA deputy associate administrator, told the United States Congress that an official from Vice President Dick Cheney's office censored congressional testimony by Julie L. Gerberding, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Reportedly, the testimony excluded said that "CDC considers climate change a serious public health concern.


In 2004, the Agency began a strategic planning exercise to develop plans for a more virtual approach to library services. The effort was curtailed in July 2005 when the Agency proposed a $2.5 million cut in its 2007 budget for libraries. Based on the proposed 2007 budget, the EPA posted a notice to the Federal Register, September 20, 2006 that EPA Headquarters Library would close its doors to walk-in patrons and visitors on October 1, 2006.

The EPA has also closed some of its regional libraries and reduced hours in others, using the same FY 2007 proposed budget numbers.

Mercury emissions

In March 2005, nine states, California, New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Maine, Connecticut, New Mexico and Vermont, sued the EPA. The EPA's inspector general had determined that the EPA's regulation of mercury emissions did not follow the Clean Air Act, and that the regulations were influenced by top political appointees. The EPA had suppressed a study it commissioned by Harvard University which contradicted its position on mercury controls. The suit alleges that the EPA's rule allowing exemption from "maximum available control technology" was illegal, and additionally charged that the EPA's system of pollution credit trading allows power plants to forego reducing mercury emissions. Several states also began to enact their own mercury emission regulations. In one of the most stringent examples, Illinois' proposed rule would reduce mercury emissions from power plants by an average of 90% by 2009, with no trading allowed.

9/11 air ratings

See EPA 9/11 pollution controversy

Very fine airborne particulates

Tiny particles, under 2.5 micrometres, are attributed to health and mortality concerns so some health advocates want EPA to regulate it. The science may be in its infancy although many conferences have discussed the trails of this airborne matter in the air. Foreign governments like Australia and most EU states have addressed this issue.

The EPA first established standards in 1997, and strengthened them in 2006. As with other standards, regulation and enforcement of the PM2.5 standards is the responsibility of the state governments, through State Implementation Plans.

Political pressure

An extensive online questionnaire responded by 1600 EPA staff scientists who have worked in the agency for more than 10 years has determined that they have been pressured to skew their findings. The survey included chemists, toxicologists, engineers, geologists and experts in other fields of science. About 40% of the scientists have reported that the interference has been more prevalent in the last five years compared to previous years. The highest number of complaints came from scientists who are involved in determining the risks of cancer by chemicals used in food and other aspects of our everyday life. These findings correlate with high prevalence of cancer among people in countries who use frozen, processed and preserved food and are used to a lifestyle where usage of drugs, chemicals and cosmetics are commonpractice.

List of EPA administrators

1970–1973 William D. Ruckelshaus
1973–1977 Russell E. Train
1977–1981 Douglas M. Costle
1981–1983 Anne M. Gorsuch (Burford)
1983–1985 William D. Ruckelshaus
1985–1989 Lee M. Thomas
1989–1993 William K. Reilly
1993–2001 Carol M. Browner
2001–2003 Christine Todd Whitman
2003–2005 Michael O. Leavitt
2005— Stephen L. Johnson

See also


External links

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