The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently celebrated its 49th birthday and kicked off a year-long celebration leading up to the agency’s 50th anniversary on December 2, 2020.
“Since the agency’s inception under the leadership of the late Administrator William Ruckelshaus, EPA staff have worked tirelessly to clean up our air, water and land for the American people,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler in a statement. “Together, we have achieved significant milestones in support of our mission to protect human health and the environment. I look forward to celebrating EPA’s accomplishments over the coming year and continuing to build on our progress for future generations.”
Born in the wake of elevated concern about environmental pollution, EPA was established on December 2, 1970, to consolidate into one agency a variety of federal environmental responsibilities including research, monitoring, standard setting and enforcement activities to ensure environmental protection while simultaneously safeguarding human health. The agency’s first administrator, Ruckelshaus, took the oath of office on December 4, 1970.
Some of the agency’s accomplishments over the last 50 years include:
- Cleaning the air: From 1970 to 2018, the combined emissions of the six criteria pollutants dropped by 74 percent, while the U.S. economy grew by 275 percent, Americans drove more miles and population and energy use increased.
- Improving water quality: In the early 1970s, more than 40 percent of the nation’s drinking water systems failed to meet even the most basic health standards. Today, more than 92 percent of community water systems meet all health-based standards, all the time.
- Cleaning the land: Throughout the history of EPA’s Brownfields program, which aims to clean up and sustainably reuse contaminated properties, local communities have been able to use grants to leverage 150,120 jobs and more than $28 billion of public and private funding.
In honor of 50 years of environmental protection, over the next year, EPA will commemorate the agency’s many achievements and continued progress, culminating in a 50th Anniversary celebration on December 2, 2020.