The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) celebrates it’s 49th birthday and kicked off a year-long celebration leading up to the agency’s 50th anniversary on Dec. 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. “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 Dec. 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, William Ruckelshaus, took the oath of office on Dec. 4, 1970.
Over the last 50 years, the agency has worked to fulfill its mission of protecting human health and the environment by improving the nation’s air, cleaning up land and water resources, and providing a cleaner, healthier environment for all people. Some of the agency’s accomplishments include:
- Cleaning up the air: From 1970 to 2018, the combined emissions of the six criteria pollutants dropped by 74%, while the U.S. economy grew by 275%, Americans drove more miles, and population and energy use increased.
- Improving water quality: In the early 1970s, more than 40% of our nation’s drinking water systems failed to meet even the most basic health standards. Today, more than 92% of community water systems meet all health-based standards, all the time.
- Cleaning up our 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 Dec. 2, 2020.