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EPA celebrates 35 years of protecting human health and the environment

Release Date: 12/2/2005
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      Denver -- The Environmental Protection Agency is 35 years old today; born by executive order issued by President Nixon on December 2, 1970. EPA's creation as a protector of the nation’s human health and the environment was hastened by the existence of rampant and highly visible pollution – rivers that literally burned and flowed with human and industrial waste, towns built upon toxic waste sites, and lethal air pollution.
Since that time, EPA’s dedicated employees have been instrumental in creating a cleaner, healthier environment for Americans -- from the successful Clean Air and Clean Water Acts to toxic waste clean-up and landmark regulations to phase out ozone-depleting refrigerants. The Clean Air Act alone has saved hundreds of thousands of lives and prevented millions more from suffering severe respiratory problems. EPA’s Superfund program, celebrating its 25th anniversary this month, has cleaned up nearly one thousand of the nation’s most toxic waste sites.

After 35 years, EPA continues to make strides. Last month, the Agency released an annual report highlighting progress made in 2005. These successes include new rules for mercury and interstate air pollution that will dramatically reduce power plant emissions and an aggressive campaign to reduce pollution from diesel engines. EPA also announced $76.7 million in Brownfields grant funding this year which will be used to assess, cleanup and revitalize blighted sites in 45 states. Also in 2005, EPA and state partners attained water quality standards in an additional eight percent of the nation’s previously impaired waters, and Agency enforcement actions reduced, treated or eliminated more than 1.1 billion pounds of pollutants. While these are just examples, the numbers tell an impressive story.

Today, EPA’s success depends more than ever on working with increasingly capable and environmentally conscious partners. Unlike 35 years ago, state and local governments now leverage considerable expertise and resources towards environmental protection. These governments often need more of EPA’s help as a partner. This means providing them with new, flexible solutions and the scientific and technical support they need to meet environmental goals. Working together with those we regulate is also important. Here in the Rocky Mountain and Great Plains states, EPA’s ability to address issues collaboratively with the agriculture and energy sectors is increasingly critical to our mission.

EPA is also responding to a growing need to address environmental problems globally. Last week, a team of EPA-supported Chinese researchers released a report outlining strategies to dramatically reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and air pollutants in preparation for the 2008 Summer Olympics. The study found that clean energy technologies and policies in Beijing could reduce annual emissions of carbon dioxide by up to 22 percent by 2010 and health-impairing particulate matter by up to 40 percent each year. This project is part of EPA’s larger effort to transfer results-oriented approaches that have been successful here in the United States to developing countries.

The EPA mission has received bipartisan support for 35 years. Clean drinking water, for example, is not a partisan issue. Clean air is not a partisan issue. And, the 5,600 people who met last month in Denver to discuss land cleanup and revitalization at the Brownfields conference came from all over the nation and from all political parties and all walks of life.

As we look towards the many birthdays to come, EPA expects that these evolving collaborative approaches to cleaner air, purer water and healthier land will yield improvements as tangible as the ones we celebrate today.

Robbie Roberts

Robbie Roberts is EPA’s Regional Administrator for a six-state region that includes Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming and 27 sovereign Tribal Nations.