EPA (Environmental Protection Agency)

EPA (Environmental Protection Agency)


The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was founded for the specific purpose of protecting human health and safeguarding the natural environment. Until the establishment of the EPA in 1970, there were no federal agencies or programs designed to deal with environmental pollution in the United States in a coordinated fashion. The EPA was assigned the unenviable task of reversing pollution that resulted from many years of unregulated environmental practices that preceded the establishment of the EPA.

Even before its inception as an agency within the federal government, it was recognized that no single entity could govern all practices and activities that had significant potential impact on the environment. Thus, the EPA was designed as an interactive agency providing direction, oversight, and assistance to many other agencies and groups whose activities bear directly and indirectly on the quality of the air, water, and land.

The EPA provides advice to the president of the United States on matters of environmental policy, and is charged with the responsibility of establishing and enforcing laws and regulations to control the quality of the environment. The chief officer of the EPA is the administrator who is appointed by the president. EPA employs 18,000 people and operates 17 laboratories across the United States. The country is divided into ten regions, each with its own regional EPA office. The total annual budget for the EPA is nearly $8 billion.

The EPA plays a leadership role in various aspects of environmental science including research, education and environmental evaluation and assessment. EPA works closely with other federal, state and local agencies as well as Native American tribal governments to develop environmental programs and regulations and to enforce existing laws pertaining to air, water, and land quality and purity. There are also a number of voluntary programs administered by the EPA that go beyond laws and regulations to encourage individuals and organizations to prevent pollution and conserve energy.

Research in environmental science is conducted directly by laboratories within the EPA. In addition, EPA serves as a funding source and planning resource for state governments and researchers outside of the agency. Over $1 billion from the overall EPA budget goes to categorical grants to state and local governments. Grants are also made for the purposes of enforcement, response preparedness, information exchange networks, assistance with Native American environmental issues, and counterterrorism.

Cleanup of existing toxic waste facilities remains one of the largest and most difficult tasks for the EPA. The nation's biggest and most technically complex properties affected by toxic waste are prioritized on the National Priorities List to reverse, minimize, or prevent environmental disasters related to toxic waste. These include private and federal properties many of which have been abandoned by their owners. The Superfund was created to fund these complicated and expensive cleanup activities. EPA provides outreach and educational activities for communities surrounding the toxic waste sites to raise awareness of risks, prevention and avoidance strategies, and to promote direct involvement in cleanup activities.

EPA and the Federal Counter-Terrorism program. The EPA supports the federal counter-terrorism program by helping state and local agencies plan for emergencies, training first responders, providing necessary resources in the event of terrorist actions, and coordinating with key federal agencies. Three offices within the EPA participate in the counter-terrorist Program: the Chemical Emergency Preparedness and Prevention Office (CEPPO), the Office of Emergency and Remedial Response (OERR), and the Office of Air and Radiation (OAR).

Following the World Trade Center terrorist attacks in September, 2001, the EPA assumed responsibility for monitoring air and water purity at ground zero, provided decontamination operations for on-site workers, monitored key pollutants at the Staten Island landfill site, and participated in clean up of sidewalks, streets, and buildings in the surrounding area.



Binns, Tristan Boyer. The Environmental Protection Agency. Woburn, MA: Heineman Publishers, 2002.


United States Environmental Protection Agency. "EPA's Role and Authority in Counter Terrorism" Chemical Emergency Preparedness and Prevention < http://yosemite.epa.gov/oswer/ceppoweb.nsf/content/ct-epro.htm#epa > (February 15, 2003).

——. "Protecting Human Health, Safeguarding the Natural Environment" Home Page< http://www.epa.gov/ > (February 15, 2003).


Air and Water Purification, Security Issues
Chemical Warfare
Emergency Response Teams
Environmental Issues Impact on Security
FEMA (United States Federal Emergency Management Agency)
Radiological Emergency Response Plan, United States Federal
September 11 Terrorist Attacks on the United States
Water Supply: Counter-Terrorism

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