Pollution of our environment is an issue that concerns each and every one of us. "The threat of environmental degradation now looms greater than the threat of nuclear war." Patrick Henry said, "I know no way of judging the future but by the past." In the past man has trampled on the environment. "The word 'ecology' means 'a study of home.'" It means discovering what damage man has done, then finding ways to fix it.The Environmental Protection Agency is trying to fix our home, the planet Earth.
Destruction of forests, land degradation, atmosperic contamination, and water scarcity are some of the major environmental problems. In 1970, the EPA was created by President Nixon to protect the public health and environment. The cancer-causing DDT was banned in 1972 and was found accumulating in the food chain.
The use of lead in gasoline was phased out in '73 which caused lead levels to drop 98%. In '74 the agency required drinking water to be physically and chemically treated. CFCs were banned in '78 and a nation-wide toxic waste site cleanup program was developed in 1980. The EPA then evacuated Times Beach, Montana for dangerous levels of dioxin in soil, which was then criticized for its heavyhandedness and arrogance. Charges of mismanagement and undue political influence caused the head of the EPA to resign in '83.
"The deputy director resigns because of charges of making a 'hit list' of employees to be hired, fired, or promoted because of political leanings. The former head of the toxic waste cleanup is found guilty of perjury and obstructing congressional inquiry. A regulation requiring treatment of hazardous wastes before disposal underground was made in 1984." The spill of the Exxon Valdez caused the Environmental Protection Agency to be ctiticized for slow response in '89. Texas Eastern Gas Pipeline was fined $15 million for the contamination of PCB at 89 sites in '90. They were also required to pay $750 million in cleanups.
"The EPA then develops the new Clean Air Act which required states to demonstrate progress toward meeting national air quality standards for harmful pollutants such as smog and carbon monoxide." The EPA issued a report in 1990 ranking the most serious threats to the environment and to human health. The highest-risk problems to human health are air pollution, exposure to toxic chemicals, and pollution of drinking water. In '91, $25 million in fines was given by Exxon Corporation and Exxon Shipping and the U.S. and Alaskan governments received $100 million.
They also estimated a $900 million redemption fund. In '93, the EPA announced that secondhand smoke can cause cancer, which the tobacco industry representatives said were inconclusive. The Clinton administration then doubled the list of chemicals that must be publicly reported under community right-to- know laws in 1994. There was then a proposal to cut their budget by $1 billion from a Republican controlled Congress, to the level it was 15 years ago.
"The Environmental Protection Agency has made the country a better place for people to live," according to EPA Administrator Carol Browner. But notice other comments that have been made about them. "The federal EPA is enmeshed in political controversy and a struggle for its very existence
." When it was created in December 1970, they have been embroiled in one drama after another- both environmental and political. "Congress distrusts it, businesses hate it, and even its friends criticize it. The EPA has made a commendable effort at trying to protect our environment. For instance, in reducing indoor pollution where we see non- smoking areas designated and the restriction of cigarette ads from television have helped people in general.
The recycling effort, the disposal of toxic wastes, and the passage of laws to protect our environment have been beneficial, however, special interest groups and lobbyists have made their job difficult. Because of the controversy and termoil in and out of the agency, would certainly indicate that the EPA is not capable of solving our environmental problems.