The EPA: Can It, Will It Save Our Environment?

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 existance." 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.