The Environmental Protection Agency

April 18, 2019 Health

The Environmental Protection Agency has drastically improved environmental conditions from when it was founded in 1970 by President Richard Nixon. It has passed many laws, and more impressively, changed many Americans beliefs on protecting the environment and its many living creatures. The beginning of the agency had started in the 1960s when growing environmental concerns had made themself present in American society. Not only did the pollution increase with more and more mass disasters, such as spilling millions of gallons of oil onto California beaches, chemical contamination in the Cuyahoga River in Ohio, etc., but also the American awareness towards environmental protection. With this expanding idea, after a decade of public qualms, President Nixon approached the House of Representatives and the Senate with a 37-point message requesting: $4 billion dollars for water treatment facilities, federally-funded research to reduce automobile pollution, legislation to end dumping waste into the Great Lakes, approving a National Contingency Plan for treatment of oil spills, etc. These requests would eventually lead to the government agency to appease the presidents and the public’s environmental issues, called the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA would tackle many environmental responsibilities, have the capacity to do the research on important pollutants and their impact, and much more. Since the EPA began, it has made tremendous accomplishments and impacts on the Environment (EPA History). Recently, due to authoritative figures like Scott Pruitt (the agency’s administrator) and President Trump’s goal of destroying the EPA, the accomplishments and public affects could be reversed, which could lead to some Americans to disbelieve the depressing conditions.
The EPA has created numerous amounts of laws to protect America’s environment, but some of its greatest accomplishments include the Pollution Prevention Act of 1990, Clean Air and Water Acts, and Toxic Substances Control Act. The Clean Air Act of 1970 was passed to establish National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) to protect public health and public welfare and to regulate emissions of hazardous air pollutants (EPA, Summary of the Clean Air Act.). The Clean Air Act was a necessity, especially for those who lived in cities during the 1970s, when the air pollution was dangerously high from all of the new factories and technology expelling fumes, carcinogens, automobile exhaust, and tons of other harmful gases. However, since this Act was passed, the U.S has “cut down on air pollutants by more than 41% as of 2010”, says the EPA (Ropollo, Micheal. “Air pollution dangerously high for almost half of U.S., report finds.”). This dramatic impact took 40 years to decrease the air pollution in America by 41% which is about 10% every 10 years, this is a relatively quick recovery for something as simple as a law, especially during the 20th century, which wasn’t a time for following rules. The Clean Water Act over the years has been modified and has made it illegal for anyone to discharge any pollutant into navigable waters without a permit, as well as setting requirements for water quality standards. Before the Clean Water Act only a third of the nations waters were safe for fishing and swimming, agricultural runoff resulted in the erosion of 2.25 billion tons of soil and unhealthy amounts of phosphorus and nitrogen into many waters. Today, two-thirds of our waters are safe, and agricultural runoff has been reduced by a billion tons annually- causing a significant decrease in phosphorus and nitrogen levels(“Summary of the Clean Water Act.”). Without the Clean Water Act mitigating the pollution caused by humans, the amount of unsafe bodies of water could have continued to increase and eventually become the thing that once made earth unique and livable is now irretrievable. In 1990 the Pollution Prevention Act was passed which focused on industry, government, and public attention on reducing the amount of pollution through cheap changes in production, operation, and the use of raw material. Not only does this act prevent means of excessively polluting the country we live in, but it also increases the efficiency in which we use water, energy, and other natural resources. This Act has aided in the decrease of air pollution due to its policy of reducing the amount of smoke and other pollution produced by big businesses and factories(“Summary of the Pollution Prevention Act.”). These select few Acts have improved our environment in what may feel small but in a big way in comparison to the early years of the EPA. Many Americans changed their lifestyles because of the acts and laws the EPA was in charge of enforcing, causing recycling bins, towns switching away from plastic bags, the no straw campaign, and even careers based on helping the environment were created. To abandon the EPA would cause more pollution and eventually a environmentally unfriendly country to reside.
With the EPA it is clear how far we have come, but in today’s society America is run by President Trump, whose goal is to shut down the EPA- contradicting all of its accomplishments. One of the most recent and drastic attacks against the EPA was Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, because instead of putting “America first” it put “America last”. For someone who doesn’t believe in climate change, this decision wasn’t a big deal. However, for others who believe the facts and research this does not only harm the progress the world has been making regarding climate change, but also the collaborative effort of countries coming together to solve an issue that affects them all. As shown in the image below, after a 3 year period of flat Global CO2 emissions, as of 2017, the year Trump dropped out of the Agreement, emissions begin to, once again, rise.

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/11/13/climate/co2-emissions-rising-again.html
Although this is not a direct correlation, it is a preview of what could happen as a result of president Trump’s drastic decision. Some people agree with this withdrawal, such as Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the EPA, who claims at first he didn’t think pulling out of a global environmental agreement was a good idea because we were leading the world in CO2 reduction. When re-visiting this topic in an interview a year later, when asked if it was a good idea, Pruitt responds “Absolutely. I mean we continue to see CO2 reduction, our economy is growing, opening comment about a billion dollars in regulatory savings at the EPA alone”( “Interview with EPA Administrator Scott P.”). Scott Pruitt may have been referring to America when he comments on continuing CO2 reduction because even though America’s CO2 is declining- globally, as seen in the graph, it is increasing. In comparison to working in group projects in school, there is almost always one member who doesn’t contribute or does their own thing silently. America is this one member who chooses not to help the global effort in mitigating climate change. Seeing this, other countries may perceive America, a world power, as lazy, careless, and disconnected. If Trump accomplishes his goal of abolishing the EPA, these characteristics will be confirmed regarding the world’s environmental issues, causing more controversy and debate.
Trump is not the only man in power making progress to shut down the EPA; Scott Pruitt has been taking risks and making hasty decisions to accomplish this goal as well. He has spent much of the Agency’s budget on unnecessary things such as expensive pens for the office, expensive and extensive amounts of personal security, $9000 to sweep his office for bugs, $25000 for a secret phone booth in his office, etc. One of Mr. Pruitt’s largest scandals was spending $40,000 of taxpayers money to fly to morocco to promote fossil fuels, which are harmful to the environment because they release more carbon dioxide into the air. Over the past year the agency has cut its own budget by 30% which has only resulted in polluters to think the agency can’t/doesn’t want to do its job, causing more people to return to polluting. In addition to the budget cut, the enforcement percentage has also decreased by 30% since the Obama administration, which is also in part by Pruitts decision to fire more than 700 EPA employees (Michaelson, Jay. The Ten Worst Things Scott Pruitt’s EPA Has Already Done).
Not only has Pruitt damaged the agencies economy, he has also hurt it’s political reputation by repeatedly bringing the EPA to court with lawsuits in attempt to repeal various acts and laws upheld by the EPA. One of his more extreme lawsuits was challenging the Clean Power Plan which limits carbon emissions, and is the main influencer of climate change. He also opposed regulations on methane, which is the second-biggest driver of climate change after carbon dioxide. He was not able to achieve his goal of revoking these laws, but if he were able to, achievements made towards limiting methane and carbon emissions could be completely cloaked by overproduction of these gases and completely ruin America’s environmental reputation.
As a man of business, it is not shocking that Pruitt has met with top executives from a coal-burning utility, board of a large coal mining company, and lobbyists from General Motors, in a single day. The fact that Mr. Pruitt didn’t meet with any environmental or health groups on this day is a bit skeptical. Even so, the more questionable action was the effects of the close relations with these companies, such as small consequences for serious assaults. Devon Energy agreed to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay for illegally emitting 80 tons of toxic pollution each year, but Pruitt voided the settlement and gave little to no penalty to the company. When other companies see that they can do almost whatever they want regarding environmental restrictions without significant consequences, they will cheat the system and the restrictions that once helped the environment will become mere recommendations. Many companies and businesses could take advantage of Pruitt’s relationship and attitude towards them, and as a result have him to save them when they disregard the once enforced regulations (Michaelson, Jay. The Ten Worst Things Scott Pruitt’s EPA Has Already Done).
On top of his efforts of mitigating the agencies power, he personally believes and communicates that “the link between global warming and human activity is unclear”. The administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency disbelieves the clear links shown in a plethora of research and data that proves the link between global warming and human activities. Something more disbelieving than Mr. Pruitt’s interesting thoughts on global warming is, his denial of climate change. He has performed a series of petty actions in order to enforce his denial including: erasing the phrase “climate change” from the entire agencies website, closing or resigning any offices working on the subject, creates a “blacklist” of EPA employees who have worked or published on the issue, and even surrounds himself with people who hold similar views as him giving them power in the EPA alongside himself. Regardless of what Scott Pruitt “believes”, the majority of people concerned with the environment are able to see these links and wish to fix them, however it is difficult to enforce awareness and protective laws when the EPAs administrator is voicing his controversial opinions. As a man with power spreading these thoughts, the common person most likely will trust his words and stop taking the little extra steps to recycle or to use the more environmentally friendly products, or even giving up conserving natural resources. As a result of these careless acts not only will global warming’s pace increase, but also the garbage in the ocean, the CO2 in the air, and the more visual garbage and pollution on the streets and even in nature in general will be.
Overall, The EPA has made not only America, but also the Earth healthier, to abolish the agency would ultimately accelerate the depressing environmental conditions of the Earth’s health. As seen from the simple, yet drastic decisions made by the current administrator, the statistics of just Americas environmental conditions have began their decline. In order to ensure the protection of the EPA and the world’s health, the agency needs a new leader who will focus on mitigating the damage caused by humans rather than dedicating their career to ending the agency.

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Works Cited:
EPA History. United States Environmental Protection Agency, 19 Jan. 2017, www.epa.gov/transportation-air-pollution-and-climate-change/timeline-major-accomplishments-transportation-air#main-content. Accessed 12 June 2018.

EPA’s Administrator. United States Environmental Protection Agency, 19 Jan. 2017, www.epa.gov/aboutepa/epas-administrator. Accessed 12 June 2018.

“Summary of the Clean Air Act.” United States Environmental Protection Agency, 19 Jan. 2017, www.epa.gov/laws-regulations/summary-clean-air-act. Accessed 12 June 2018.

“Summary of the Clean Water Act.” United States Environmental Protection Agency, 19 Jan. 2017, www.epa.gov/laws-regulations/summary-clean-water-act. Accessed 12 June 2018.

“Summary of the Pollution Prevention Act.” United States Environmental Protection Agency, 19 Jan. 2017, www.epa.gov/laws-regulations/summary-pollution-prevention-act. Accessed 12 June 2018.

Michaelson, Jay. The Ten Worst Things Scott Pruitt’s EPA Has Already Done, 29 Dec. 2017, www.thedailybeast.com/the-ten-worst-things-scott-pruitts-epa-has-already-done?ref=scroll. Accessed 12 June 2018.

Pruitt, Scott. Interview by Boris Epshteyn. “Interview with EPA Administrator Scott P.” ABC News, WJLA, 19 Jan. 2017., wjla.com/news/bottom-line/interview-with-epa-administrator-scott-pruitt-paris-agreement. Accessed 12 June 2018.

Plumer, Brad, and Nadja Popovich. CO2 Emissions Were Flat for Three. Map. 13 Nov. 2017, pp. 1+, www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/11/13/climate/co2-emissions-rising-again.html. Accessed 12 June 2018.

Ropollo, Micheal. “Air pollution dangerously high for almost half of U.S., report finds.” CBS News, CBS Interactive inc, 30 Apr. 2014, www.cbsnews.com/news/air-pollution-dangerously-high-for-almost-half-of-us/. Accessed 12 June 2018.

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