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Forty years after its founding, what has the EPA achieved?

Dan Farber, professor of law | December 28, 2010

Forty years ago, President Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency by Executive Order.  Here are some of the achievements that EPA lists on its EPA@40 website:

[W]e’ve reduced 60% of the dangerous air pollutants that cause smog, acid rain, lead poisoning and more. clean air innovations like smokestack scrubbers and catalytic converters in automobiles have helped. Today, new cars are 98 percent cleaner than in 1970 in terms of smog-forming pollutants.

Sixty-percent more Americans were served by publicly-owned wastewater treatment facilities from 1968 to 2008.

Preliminary EPA analysis shows that in 2010, Clean Air Act fine particle (soot) and ozone (smog) programs implemented since the 1990 Amendments will have prevented more than 160,000 premature deaths.

Bureaucrats don’t have a good public image, but in the end, it’s the bureaucrats in places like EPA who translate public policy into reality.  At EPA, they’ve managed to do this despite years of budgetary neglect and sniping from the White House or Congress, not to mention talk shows and Fox News.  Hats off to the “faceless bureaucrats” of EPA!

Cross-posted from the environmental law and policy blog Legal Planet, a Berkeley Law-UCLA Law collaboration.

Comments to “Forty years after its founding, what has the EPA achieved?

  1. The EPA has done what it was created for, our air is much cleaner then it was years ago. They have even started a radon mitigation campaign, so not only are they lowering CO2 they are also saving people’s lives by letting them know the risks of other things such as radon gas.

    As said above, yes we do need to start building up our renewable energy infrastructure; this would help us cut much more CO2 from the air!

  2. The role and influence of the EPA has obviously grown far beyond the original founding intentions, and by its only inherent organizational objective being to be ‘restrictive’, has undeniably had equally profound negative impacts upon business and the economy. The point being – if you, I or anyone with a family loses their job, the first thing you will do is curtail your spending and expenses such that the essentials of your home and that which keeps you and your family safe, secure and healthy be maintained. i.e. – keeps the lights, heat and water running. In this clearly bankrupt economy, and recent year’s incredible & unnecessary funding increases to the EPA, what elements of our country/home would REALLY HONESTLY stop functioning if the EPA’s funding were reduced by 50% or more ? … Answer – Absolutely nothing.

  3. No sentient being is likely to forget they want clean air or water, no matter what I write in the comment section of a somewhat obscure blog. But there is no doubt that the EPA is a highly politicized hyperactive rule making body (especially under this bizarre administration) with the ability to damage the economic productivity which is the basis of our prosperous (though declining) standard or living. And it’s that prosperity which makes it possible for CA to maintain its university system (for now), along with its highly generous compensation levels for faculty and administration. But kill off that prosperity with too many rules and regulations and you get fewer resources to maintain all the public goodies. CA has piled on with its own environmental rules and regulations, which has had the documented effect of driving manufacturing out of the state. Only a particularly obtuse person would fail to comprehend that for every EPA rule there is an economic cost. The more rules, the more costly manufacturing becomes, and the more likely it is for corporations to move plants off shore where the rules don’t exist. Take a trip on the Capitol Limited to Chicago for a graphic illustration of our evaporating industrial base. The EPA played a significant part in this — and killing off millions of Americans with CAFE standards. Have some facts.

    • Let’s see: Richard Nixon, under whose watch our clean air and clean water law came into being, was an enemy of the Free Enterprise System (now the tacit religion of many of our countrymen)??? And the contention that California is hostile to the Free Enterprise System: Lord, please tell me where live the inventors who have given us the Internet, biomedicine, and all the jobs that have helped give our country a fighting chance in this new millenium.
      If the rest of America would get behind sustainable energy like California, we would own the global solar and wind industry. Instead, we have listened to the old “No can do” voices (the same ones who ran Detroit into the ground), and now China owns these industries. And all the jobs and income they produce.

      • Richard Nixon was a complex guy who defies easy classification. He certainly was no conservative in the small government, Barry Goldwater sense. It’s a shame the pre-internet media and liberal judiciary were able to conspire with the Dem Party to destroy him, but this was a necessary exercise for us to get RR.

  4. The EPA had more than a little help from corporations off-shoring most of our pollution generating industrial capital to China and Mexico over the past two decades. The overbearing regulatory burden created by the EPA was a huge incentive for them to do so.

    I suppose if you are a University Professor, it’s nice to have smog and PAH free air to deeply inhale when you go out jogging after your six hour day. But if you are a blue collar kind of guy forever standing in the unemployment line, probably the hypertension caused by your joblessness will kill you faster than a little SO2.

    I’ll keep my hat on, thank you.

    • Another fact-free comment employing a logical sleight-of-hand to make you forget that we the people really do want clean air and water.

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