Celebrating 15 Years of Progress, 1970-1985

[EPA Times - December 1985]

This month marks the fifteenth anniversary of the Environmental Protection Agency's creation. The history of EPA's first decade and a half was described in the November issue of EPA Journal and the occasion was marked at Headquarters with a colorful ceremony that was combined with the annual awards presentations.

The Washington, D.C. observance, held at a downtown auditorium, featured addresses by William Ruckelshaus, the Agency's first administrator, Lee Thomas, EPA Administrator since last February, and U.S. Senator Robert Stafford of Vermont.

The program also featured the first appearance of the 60-voice EPA chorus, a new film depicting the Agency's history, and a slide series showing hundreds of EPAers at work. Teamwork by scores of people in many offices was involved in planning the event, which went off without a hitch. Special credit must be given to the events "producer" and "director": Jill Collins and Mary McCaffery, to the Agency's audiovisual division, and to Bob Flanagan for his design of the anniversary illustration.

Around the country, the Agency's Regional offices held a variety of anniversary observances--award ceremonies involving both EPA employees and the public, speeches by one Senator--John H. Chafee (D-RI)--and one former Senator--Gaylord Nelson, press luncheons, special events, and two bake-offs. One bake-off, in Region 7, was judged by community officials. The other, a chocolate bake-off, was judged by former Administrator Ruckelshaus.

No EDB in the recipes, we hope.

Other Anniversary Notes

How did EPA get its name? Doug Costle, Agency Administrator during the Carter administration and a staffer at the President's Council on Reorganization (known as the Ash Commission) during Nixon's presidency, recalls that it didn't take contests or focus groups or brainstorming sessions. "We had just about finished the recommendations for establishing the new agency, and we needed a name to go with the recommendation. Someone suggested the 'National Pollution Agency.' We agreed that even though that was the agency's purpose it sounded too negative and limiting. The second suggestion was, 'Environmental Protection Agency.' There was little discussion. We just put that name into the recommendation, and it stuck."

The Coalescing of EPA Personnel 1970

Moving day, December 2, 1970: The Agency came into being with virtually no moving-day publicity. If it were not for the hearings about Ruckelshaus' confirmation as administrator on the same day and news stories that referred to the coincidence of dates, you'd never have known that over 6,000 employees had become a part of the brand new EPA.

The Washington Post buried the story on an inside page, although the day after the confirmation hearing the paper had an eight-column headline over a story about a Maryland community that was suffering health problems due to its proximity to a chemical plant. The New York Times front-paged the confirmation hearings and creation of the new agency, but that was largely because Ruckelshaus protested a move by Interior to relax oil spill regulations before he took office; he protested to the White House and Congress. He won.

There was no media mention of what was happening to the EPA staffers who were changing agencies that day. Hundreds moved into the Normandy Building on K Street, others stayed in old locations like the Parklawn Building with new signs on their offices. In coastal Mississippi, for one group of workers the changeover meant leaving a beat-up USDA quonset hut laboratory where they had been doing pesticide research for a beautiful NASA building in Bay St. Louis. One of the chemists had been with USDA for just one day when he moved again to EPA.