I. The Birth of an Agency

A. The United States Environmental Protection Agency was born at a time when the American people were growing increasingly concerned about the health of the environment.

B. This new concern grew out of America's long tradition of conservation.

C. In the late 1800's scientists began to actually measure environmental damage and issue the first warnings against unchecked depletion and pollution of our natural resources.

1. Faced with this evidence, the federal government took its first step toward protecting the environment -The Forest service was created.

D. In the 1930's during the Great Depression, government programs such as the Soil Conservation Service, The Tennessee Valley Authority, and the Civilian Conservation Corps provided employment for thousands on conservation projects from flood control to soil erosion prevention.

E. Although these projects helped to protect the nation's resources from depletion, they did little to protect them from pollution.

F. It fell to private conservation groups to protect specific parts of the environment from destruction and depletion; while petitioning the government for more stringent environmental protection legislation.

1. Unfortunately these groups were small and had limited political influence.

G. In 1962, Rachel Carson wrote her book Silent Spring which discussed the dangers of agricultural pesticides and urged controls on their use.

H. By the late 1960's the rise of the environmental movement brought increased pressure on elected officials to seek solutions to pollution problems.

II. Early Environmental Legislation

A. Until the mid-20th century, the federal government had taken a very limited role in environmental policy-making.

B. With the exception of public land management, Congress generally considered such policy a matter for local and state governments and hesitated to get involved.

C. After Wold War II, the Federal government finally made efforts to address pollution, particularly in the air and in water.

D. America has had a long history of legislation aimed at protecting the nations waterways, although usually the legislation was designed to prevent navigation hazards and not pollution.

1. The first such law was the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899, which prohibited the dumping of any solid waste into navigable rivers and harbors. Although this law was originally intended to keep waterways free of obstacles to navigation, it did reduce some forms of pollution.

2. In 1948, Congress passed the first comprehensive federal regulations aimed specifically at water pollution control. The Water Pollution Control Act set a precedent for many of the environmental laws that followed.

a. This law gave the Department of the Interior the authority to force water polluters- both private industries and public agencies- to develop and implement antipollution programs.

b. The law also established federal assistance programs to help local governments build sewage treatment plants and to help state governments offset the costs of their water-pollution control programs.

3. The Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1956 built on these measures by authorizing federal planning and technical assistance as well as research and construction grants for municipal waste-treatment facilities.

4. Amendments to this act in 1961 extended the federal governments's enforcement responsibilities to interstate waters, navigable intrastate waters, and costal waters and increased the funds available for federal construction grants.

5. In 1965, another set of amendments to the Federal Water Pollution Control Act established the Federal Water Pollution Control Administration. This agency took over water quality responsibilities formerly handled by the Public Health Service, (Then part of HEW).

a. What is more important however is that the 1965 amendments called for the development of national water-quality standards and timetables for the cleanup of all interstate and coastal waters.

6. In the fall of 1969, the Department of the Interior began to use the law to prosecute water polluters.

a. Hearings were held on water pollution charges against the city of Toledo, Ohio, several major steel companies and a mining company.

b. As a result of these hearings, the city and the industries agreed to set up water treatment plants to clean up their waste discharges into the waters feeding Lake Erie.

7. The Department of the Interior also ordered the state of Iowa to treat all sewage wastes that flowed from that state into the Missouri and Mississippi rivers and encouraged several other states to speed up their treatment programs. This was the first time the Federal government used its power to set water quality standards for a state.

E. Federal actions concerning air pollution came later than those concerning water pollution.

1. The federal government's first action to address the problems of air pollution came in 1955 with the passage of the Air Pollution Control Act. This law authorized the Public Health Service to begin air pollution research nd provided some technical assistance to state and local governments.

2. The next major step was the Clean Air Act of 1963. This act provided federal grants to local air pollution agencies for control programs and for the first time gave the federal government legal authority to deal with interstate air pollution problems.

3. The next step was the 1965 Amendments to the Clean Air Act, which directed the Secretary of HEW to establish nationwide exhaust emission standards for new motor vehicles.

a. The first such standards for hydrocarbon and carbon-monoxide emissions, published in 1966, were applicable to most new gas-powered vehicles starting with model-year 1968.

b. This amendment spurred auto makers to begin developing engines that used low-pollution unleaded gasoline.

4. Another important piece of air pollution legislation, the Air Quality Act of 1967, strengthened the enforcement powers of local, state, and federal agencies. It gave HEW the authority to designate air quality regions (areas of particularly serious pollution),in various parts of the country and to enforce air quality standards for these regions.

a. For the first time, states had to devise federally acceptable air pollution cleanup plans of face prosecution by HEW..

5. In 1969, HEW announced the first federal guidelines for industrial air-pollution control. These guidelines specified maximum levels of sulfur dioxide and total suspended particulate that could be emitted from industrial plants.

a. The first government suit under the Clean Air Act came in February of 1969, when the Justice Department filed suit in a Baltimore district court to close an animal rendering plant (a plant that melts animal fats for industrial uses) for violating air pollution standards.

F. Although most of the federal legislation dealing with pollution dealt primarily with air and water, the 1960's brought regulations for other types of pollution as well.

1. In 1965, Congress passed the Solid Waste Disposal Act, which set up national research and development programs aimed at finding better ways to dispose of solid waste (garbage). It also provided for federal financial and technical aid for approved state and local solid-waste disposal programs. Responsibility for the program was split between HEW and the Department of the Interior.

III. The Santa Barbara Oil Spill

A. By the late 1960's even Congress began to recognize the need for more vigorous and coordinated federal action to protect public health and to prevent irreversible environmental damage.

B. In late January, 1969, a dramatic blowout of an offshore oil rig near Santa Barbara California sharply focused national attention on this need.

C. Leakage form the damaged oil rig in the Santa Barbara channel became a virtual river of oil by January 31, destroying marine life and washing crude oil onto 30 miles of southern California beach.

D. Officials of the Union Oil Company of California, which operated the well, estimated that before the well could be capped on February 8, it had leaked more than 235,000 gallons of oil and had spread an 800 square mile slick over the Pacific Ocean.

E. Conservationist at the time reported that more than 600 birds had been affected, and that complete destruction of marine life in the regions along the shore for 20 miles was possible.

F. The controversy intensified when the Fred L. Hartley, president of the oil company was apparently misquoted in the press as saying " I am amazed at the publicity for the loss of a few birds. (In later testimony before a Senate subcommittee on air and water pollution, Hartley claimed that what he actually said was "I am always tremendously impressed by the publicity that the death of birds receives versus the loss of people in our country in this day and age")

G. As a result of this oil spill, the government tightened offshore oil drilling regulations, but the public pressured government to take even more decisive steps to protect the environment.

 

IV. The First Steps Toward the EPA. - The EQC and CEQ

A. About four months after the Santa Barbara spill, President Nixon signed an executive order establishing the Environmental Quality Council (EQC). This agency was intended as a cabinet-level advisory group, headed by the president himself. The executive order also established a 15 member Citizens Committee on Environmental Quality.

B. But Congress was not satisfied by the Nixon administrations actions, calling the EQC a patchwork approach to addressing environmental problems

C. In response, Congress enacted the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), a law that attempted to establish the first national policy on environmental protection.

1. Nixon signed the law on January 1 as his first official act of 1970 and set the tone for a new era of federal environmental policy by proclaiming the 1970's the "environmental decade".

2. The NEPA created the three-member Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) that, according to the NEPA's sponsor would "play an independent and aggressive role in defining the threat to our environment and developing programs to combat it."

3. The president gave the council the task of developing and coordinating federal environmental programs and policies and would make sure that all federal activities "take environmental considerations into account."

D. The NEPA represented a major step toward control of environmental quality, but the promotion of its policies was hampered by the CEQ's small size and limited power, and by the widely scattered nature of the federal governments environmental protection efforts.

1. The Public Health Service; the Department of Agriculture; and the Department of the Interior shared the responsibility for enforcing environmental regulations.

V. The creation of the EPA

A. Stating that the government's "environmentally related activities have grown up piecemeal over the years: and that "the time has come to organize them rationally and systematically," President Nixon submitted to Congress on July 9, 1970, Reorganization Plan No. 3, a plan to unify these wide-ranging responsibilities under a single agency, the USEPA.

B. The president did not propose giving the EPA any powers that its predecessor agencies did not have. The EPA was merely to assume responsibility for preexisting clean air and water, pesticide control, and radiation monitoring programs.

C. Nixon emphasized the importance of bringing the governments attack on pollution under one authority. With enforcement and standards programs spread throughout several agencies it was usually difficult to coordinate a concerted effort to reduce pollution. In addition, the Nixon administration argued that the sources of air, water and land pollution were interrelated, and that making gains in one area might have no effect on the others.

D. Congress approved Nixon's plan with little opposition. On December 2, 1970, The EPA was created by executive order as an independent agency in the executive branch of the government. On the same day the Senate confirmed the nomination of William D. Ruckelshaus, an assistant attorney general in the Justice Department, as the agency's first director.

VI. The EPA's Responsibility

A. The newly created EPA assumed responsibility for many existing environmental programs.

1. Water quality programs were transferred to the EPA from the Department of the Interior's Federal Water Quality Administration and the Department of HEW's Bureau of Water Hygiene

2. Air quality programs were transferred to EPA from HEW's National Air Pollution Control Administration

3. Solid waste control programs were also transferred to EPA from HEW's Bureau of Solid Waste Management.

4. The responsibility to set environmental radiation protection standards was transferred to EPA from HEW and from the Atomic Energy Commission (which has been abolished) and took over the responsibilities of the Federal Radiation Council.

5. The authority to register pesticides and to regulate their use was assumed from the Department of Agriculture.

6. The authority to set limits on levels of pesticide on and in food was assumed from the Food and Drug Administration

7. After the EPA's creation, the Council on Environmental Quality continued to exist as an advisory and policy-making body. While the EPA was to focus mainly on setting and enforcing pollution control standards, the CEQ was to deal with broad environmental policies and overall coordination of the government's environmental regulation activities.

VII. Growth in the 70's

A. Building the EPA was a long and difficult process. Dozens of scattered offices and programs and thousands of federal workers had to be consolidated into one agency.

B. Throughout the 1970's the EPA grew steadily, Its budget increased from about 500 million in 1973 to 1.3 billion in 1980.

C. The Clean Air Act Amendments of 1970 gave further responsibilities to EPA. These amendments set specific deadlines for the reduction of certain hazardous automobile-exhaust emissions and established national air-quality standards for other pollutants.

1. The amendments also granted the EPA the power to enforce observance of these standards. If polluters did not meet the standards by a certain date, the EPA was given the power to fine them or to shut them down or both.

2. If methods were not available to meet these standards, the polluters had to develop them in time to meet EPA's deadlines.

a. This last provision helped spur the development of many new technological advances in pollution control, such as emission control devices for automobiles and smokestack scrubbers that clean industrial emissions of pollutants before they leave the stack.

b. For the first time, polluters were directly responsible for controlling their own pollution.

3. The Clean Air Act amendments of 1970 contained a number of new provisions designed to help improve air quality. These provisions focused on four major areas: air quality standards, state implementation plans, automobile and fuel regulations, and noise pollution.

a. In the area of air quality,the 1970 amendments gave the EPA administrator broad powers to determine which air pollutants needed to be controlled and to develop national ambient (the surrounding atmosphere) air quality standards (NAAQS) that set maximum allowable atmospheric levels for these substances.

b. The 1970 amendments also addressed air pollution at the source - factory smokestacks and vehicle exhaust systems. They gave the EPA the power to set national emission standards for hazardous air pollutants (NESHAPS) such as asbestos, beryllium, mercury, and vinyl chloride, and to enforce new source performance standards (NSPS) that limited the type and quantity of emissions allowed from new and modified industrial plants.

c. The amendments also required that each state develop a state implementation plan (SIP), detailing how it planned to meet applicable NAAQS for each air control region or portion of a region within the state. They further authorized the EPA to provide as much as 100 percent funding for approved state-air-quality-improvement programs.

d. In the section on automobile and fuel regulations, the 1970 amendments called for a 90-percent reduction in carbon monoxide and hydrocarbon exhaust emissions n all new cars and light trucks by 1975. They also required the use of pollution control devices on all new vehicles and authorized the EPA to conduct research on low-ollution alternative engines and fuels.

e. To deal with the newly recognized problem of noise pollution, the 1970 amendments created within the EPA an Office of Noise Abatement and Control to study noise pollution and its effects on public health and welfare.

D. On October 26, 1970, President Nixon signed the Resource Recovery Act. This act established a major research program, run by the EPA, to develop new and innovative ways of dealing with solid waste. It also gave the EPA the responsibility of providing state and local governments with technical and financial help in planning and developing resource recovery and waste disposal systems.

E. In 1972, water quality legislation entered a new era with the passage of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments. This bill represented the most wide-ranging and expensive environmental legislation enacted to that time. It only became law after Congress overrode Nixon's veto on the last day of the 1972 congressional session.

1. These amendments marked a basic change in the approach to pollution control by adding strict limits to the existing water quality standards on what could be discharged into waterways.

2. They also extended federal responsibility for water pollution to all the nation's waters. Under these amendments, the EPA could for the first time establish nationwide water quality standards and limits on the amount of waste that could be discharged into the waterways.

3. In addition, the amendments toughened the requirements for discharge permits and required that industrial dischargers submit plans and schedules for bringing their discharges in line with federal standards.

4. As stated in its opening passage, this new law's overall goal was to "restore and maintain the physical, chemical, and biological integrity of the nation's waters."

5. It set specific goals of making all the nation's surface water bodies "fishable and swimmable" by 1983, and of eliminating all pollutant discharges into navigable waters by 1985.

F. Also in 1972, came the first legislation aimed solely at controlling noise pollution. The Noise Control Act of 1972, passed on Congress's last day of the session for the year, gave the EPA authority to set standards limiting noise levels from certain commercial sources, including construction equipment, motors and engines, and electronic equipment.

1. It also directed the EPA to propose noise standards for commercial aircraft, but gave final responsibility for setting these standards to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

G. The Federal Environmental Pesticide Control Act of 1972, made the first major changes in national policy on pesticide regulation.

1. The new act required that all pesticides be registered with the EPA.

a. This in effect gave the EPA control over the manufacture, distribution, and use of pesticides.

b. Under the previous law- the Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act of 1947, the government had to go through a long and complicated procedure to ban a dangerous pesticide and could not punish those who used such a substance improperly.

c. The new law made it easier to ban hazardous pesticides and imposed penalties for their improper use. It divided pesticides into two categories:

(1) General Use Pesticides, were considered nonhazardous and

(2) Restricted-use pesticide, considered hazardous would have to be clearly labeled and could be used only by licensed persons.

d. In addition, all pesticide manufacturers would have to submit to the EPA detailed information on chemical formulas, directions for use, and safety test results.

H. Although the Clean Water Act Amendments of 1972 dealt with water pollution, they did not specifically address drinking-water quality. In 1974, Congress passed the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) in an effort to correct the problem of inconsistent state protection of public drinking water supplies.

1. Across the country, drinking water quality was uneven; standards varied widely from state to state, and sometimes even in different areas of the same state.

2. The SDWA established the first comprehensive program to eliminate these inconsistencies and set nationwide standards for drinking water quality.

3. The SDWA also directed the EPA to set maximum allowable levels for certain chemical and biological pollutants and brought under EPA standards almost 240,000 community water supply systems serving a total of more than 200 million people.

4. The SDWA grew out of an increasing concern over the health effects of drinking-water pollution. EPA issued a report in November, 1974 on the City of New Orleans public water supply. The test uncovered 66 different pollutants, some which are suspected carcinogens.

I. Although air and water pollution got most of the early legislative attention, the safe handling and disposal of hazardous wastes also became an increasing public concern. In 1976, Congress responded to this concern by enacting the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA)

1. The RCRA set the first regulations for the generation, transportation, and disposal of hazardous waste.

2. Under the new law, the EPA established a registration system that tracked a hazardous material from manufacture to disposal.

3. Under the new law, the EPA was given the tools to track and regulate the handling of hazardous substances but RCRA did not address existing hazardous waste disposal sites or unsafe disposal practices.

4. The EPA had no authority to cleanup existing sites.

J. The Clean Water Act enabled the EPA (in cooperation with the Coast Guard) to take action when oil or other hazardous substances were discharged into navigable waterways, but it did not five the EPA or any other government agency the authority to act when hazardous substances were released to other parts of the environment, including the land, the air, and groundwater and non-navigable surface-water bodies.

K. Another piece of legislation passed in 1976 - the Toxic Substance Control Act (TOSCA)- did give the EPA broad powers to control the distribution and use of commercial and industrial chemicals known or thought to be hazardous to human health and the environment.

1. The bill singled out for special attention a class of chemical compounds known as PCB's. TOSCA called for a complete ban on the manufacture and use of PCB's by 1979.

L. By 1975, the EPA became one of the largest and most powerful of all federal agencies.

VIII. Changes in Direction

A. By the mid 1970's the environmental movement was beginning to lose momentum.

1. The Arab oil embargo of 1974 forced oil and gas prices upward, burdening the American Economy and led to runaway inflation.

2. Faced with new economic hardship, business and industry pleaded with Congress to ease some of the strict environmental regulations that added greatly to the cost of doing business.

3. Members of Congress faced with the political reality of needing to cooperate with powerful business and industrial interests began to soften their position.

B. Some of the most significant softening occurred in regard to the clean air act. Specifically, The Clean Air Act Amendments of 1977.

1. the 1977 amendments constitute one of the most detailed and complex environmental laws ever written.

2. They were more than 180 pages long (more than 3 times as long as the original Clean Air Act Amendments of 1970).

3. Although the 1977 amendments preserved the overall goal of the 1970 amendments (to protect public health by cleaning the air) the 1977 amendments extended deadlines for meeting standards and thus delayed achieving this goal.

a. It extended for two years the deadline for automobile manufactures to achieve exhaust emissions standards.

b. Gave most industrial polluters up to three more years to meet existing standards

c. Extended the deadline (from 1977) for cities to meet NAAQS until 1982 and in some cases to 1987.

d. It directed EPA to review existing air quality standards before 1981 and again every five years thereafter.

4. Congress's most difficult political problem came in revising automobile emissions standards.

a. Car manufacturers requested deadline extensions, claiming that they could not possibly meet the standards in their 1978-model cars.

b. Industry leaders threatened to shut down their assembly lines rather than produce cars that could not meet the standards, for which they would face EPA fines of up to $10,000 for each car.

c. In response to this threat, President Carter pleaded with Congress to move back the deadlines to avoid potential harm to the American economy.

C. Congress also softened the Clean Water Act amendments of 1972. Changes enacted as the Clean Water Act of 1977 allowed some delays in the cleanup of water pollutants for economic reasons, giving polluters more time to implement expensive water-treatment systems or to devise other ways to meet water quality standards.

1. Although lawmakers described the changes as only "midcourse corrections" that would not affect the 1972 act's overall goals, the revisions satisfied neither industry which wanted a major rewrite and relaxing of standards, nor environmentalists who wanted to hold to the original regulations and deadlines.

2. Indicative of the EPA's new willingness to cooperate with, rather than confront industry, the EPA administrator (Douglas Costle) praised the new law as a step toward reasonable and achievable pollution-control standards.

IX. Superfund

A. The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the Clean Water Act and other environmental laws authorized the EPA to take legal action to force corporations who create, transport, or dispose of hazardous waste to clean up any pollution that they cause.

B. Unfortunately, abandoned dump sites are often impossible to link to an owner or polluter.

C. Even if such a site can be linked to an owner or polluter, they may not have the capital to pay for the high costs of cleanups. In addition, these sites are often found when they release some hazardous substance, requiring emergency action. Forcing owners to clean up a site can be a lengthy process.

D. In 1980, largely in response to public pressures which resulted from Love Canal and other hazardous waste disasters, Congress enacted new legislation establishing a program coordinating federal and state efforts to deal with releases of hazardous substances into the environment.

E. This law, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) of 1980 (Superfund), permits the federal government, under the authority of the EPA to work with state and local governments to clean up hazardous waste.

1. Under the law, a $1.6 billion trust fund was set up to provide money to pay for both emergency and long-term cleanups of waste spills and active and inactive disposal sites.

2. These funds come from special taxes paid by manufacturers, producers, and importers of oil and 42 designated toxic chemical substances.

3. CERCLA also required the EPA to revise the National Contingency Plan.

a. This plan was first developed in 1968, details the required steps to be taken by 14 federal agencies and state and local governments in response to a major release of oil or hazardous substances.

b. The revised plan now gives responsibility for dealing with all such emergencies on land and in inland waters to the EPA

c. The U.S. Coast Guard is responsible for accidental spills in or near coastal waters and in the Great Lakes.

d. In general the plan promotes cooperation between EPA and state and local governments in emergency response actions.

e. It also allows state and local governments to bill the federal government for cleanup costs and authorizes the EPA to undertake cleanup when the polluter or the state government cannot or will not do so.

X. EPA and the Reagan Administration

A. Reagan and his conservative political aides and allies had a view of environmental regulation that was radically different from that of the administrations before him.

B. He believed that although some regulation was necessary to protect public health, the costs and bureaucratic problems of regulating pollution had gotten out of hand and needed to be cut back

C. Reagan also believed that many of the environmental regulations written during the 1970's were hurting the nation's economy by forcing industry to spend millions of dollars on pollution control.

D. The Reagan administration quickly took steps to change things..

1. In January, 1981, Reagan created the Presidential Task Force on Regulatory Relief.

2. The task force was headed by Vice President George Bush and was set up to review existing and proposed regulations for all government agencies.

3. In its review of environmental regulations, the task force recommended that changes should be made to relieve the regulatory burden on business, industry, and state and local governments.

4. Among the regulations singled out were those affecting the auto industry, particularly emissions standards and lead limits in gasoline.

E. In addition to reviewing existing regulations, the Reagan administration introduced a policy for evaluating new ones. Under executive order 12291, issued on February 17, 1981, any government agency proposing a new environmental regulation had to calculate the regulations benefits in economic terms and balance these against its costs. Only regulations that had economic benefits exceeding their costs could become law.

F. This represented a dramatic shift from previous policy which evaluated a regulation's benefits based on purely environmental concerns.

G. The Reagan administration also drastically reduced both the staff and funding levels of the EPA. By 1984, EPA staff cuts totalled 29% and budget cuts of 44% from 1980 levels.

H. In 1981, the Reagan administration also dismissed the CEQ's entire professional staff and slashed its budget by more than 70%.

I. Reagan also appointed Anne Gorsuch as EPA administrator.

1. She was a former telephone Co. lawyer and Colorado state legislator, a protege of James Watt the equally controversial secretary of the interior.

2. She had little background in environmental policy-making when she assumed office in May, 1981.

3. Gorsuch took control of the EPA with orders from Reagan to streamline the agency, slash its budget and staff and relieve industry of burdensome and costly environmental regulations.

4. Gorsuch filled 12 of the agency's 16 top administrate posts with former attorneys, lobbyists, and consultants for industries the EPA regulates.

5. Most of these people had little or no prior experience in government, and not one had ever worked in environmental administration.

6. By the Fall of 1982, the impact of Gorsuch's policy were clear. But the low point came when Gorsuch (now Burford by marriage) was cited for contempt of Congress. (she was one of the highest government officials ever to be so censured). The citation came because Burford refused to turn over the House of Representatives, documents on alleged mismanagement of the Superfund program for cleaning up the nations toxic waste dumps.

7. In the following months, the newspapers detailed arrangements for preferential treatment that Burford and her top aide, Rita Lavelle, had allegedly made with industrial and business lobbyists.

8. Evidence also suggested widespread political corruption, including manipulation of Superfund monies to help Republican congressional candidates' election campaigns, and the development of a "hit list' that targeted for dismissal certain EPA scientists who were felt to be unfriendly to the Reagan administration.

9. Things became so bad by 1983 that Reagan pressured Burford to resign. ( the 1984 election was near). In an attempt to restore some credibility William D. Ruckelshaus was appointed to take Burford's place.