Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is an agency of the United States federal government whose mission is to protect human health and the environment. It was established in 1970 to ensure that all Americans have access to clean air, land, and water, and that related federal laws are administered and enforced fairly and effectively. These laws may be related to natural resources, human health, the economy, energy, transportation, agriculture, industry, or international trade; in turn, these areas are taken into consideration in the creation of environmental policy. When a law is passed by Congress, the EPA develops and enforces the corresponding regulations.1 The Clean Air Act of 1970 and the Clean Water Act of 1972 are the foundational laws that direct the EPA to establish standards about the kinds of toxic air and water pollutants that can be released into the air, lakes, streams, and rivers.2

The EPA is also responsible for making sure that all communities, businesses, tribes, and state and local governments, have access to accurate information that allows them to mitigate health and environmental issues. To accomplish this, it manages environmental research projects across the country and shares information publicly. The EPA also awards grants to, and sponsors partnerships with, state environmental programs, nonprofits, educational institutions, and others. Sponsored projects range from scientific studies to community cleanups, campaigns for water or energy conservation, and initiatives for minimizing greenhouse gas emissions.3

The EPA oversees the rehabilitation of contaminated lands and toxic sites, and the review of chemicals that enter the market. For example, the EPA’s Superfund program is charged with managing the cleanup of environmental emergencies like oil spills and natural disasters. It forces responsible parties to either clean the contaminated sites or reimburse the government for cleanup efforts.4 The EPA is also responsible for maintaining a public list of toxic chemicals that have a potential for high exposure.5

  1. The Environmental Protection Agency
  2. The Environmental Protection Agency – Clean Water Act
  3. The Environmental Protection Agency
  4. The Environmental Protection Agency  – Superfund
  5. Parsons School of Design’s Healthier Materials & Sustainable Building Certificate Program

Related Terms

Was this insightful?