The environment is all around us: from the air we breathe, to the water we drink, to the ecosystems that we’re a part of. But these natural resources weren’t always protected in the United States – until modern-day environmental policies entered the scene.
What is the Environmental Protection Agency?
The Environmental Protection Agency, commonly known as the EPA, helps keep our country’s air, water and land healthy and clean. It’s a “regulatory agency,” which means that Congress gives it authority to specify details of implemented environmental laws. These details, called “regulations,” make laws applicable to individuals, businesses, governments and more.
Over the last 50 years, the U.S. legislators have passed dozens of laws that the EPA must oversee. Watch our video to learn more about the history of environmental policy in the U.S. and what it aims to protect.
Too many important environmental laws to keep track of? We’re here to help. Click on the links below for more information about the policies covered in the video:
- Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health (BEACH) Act: allows the EPA to award grants for coastal testing, monitoring and public awareness programs in order to reduce the risk of disease to visitors of recreational waterways, like Florida’s beloved beaches.
- Clean Air Act (CAA): regulates dangerous air pollutant emissions and authorizes the EPA to establish National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS).
- Clean Water Act (CWA): establishes the basic rules for discharging pollutants into waterways and regulating water quality standards.
- Endangered Species Act (ESA): promotes the conservation of threatened and endangered plants and animals and their habitats. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Service also help administer this act.
- Energy Policy Act: addresses energy (renewable energy, coal, gas, oil, etc.) production and use in the U.S. For example, the Act provides loan guarantees for entities that avoid the production of greenhouse gases.
- Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA): allows the EPA to set pesticide residues limits on foods.
- National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA): ensures that federal projects (like new airports, highways, military bases, etc.) give proper consideration to the environment prior to the start of construction.
- Noise Control Act: establishes noise emission standards for products on the market, promotes awareness of noise emissions and advances coordinated federal research in noise control.
- Oil Pollution Act (OPA): issues rulings for aboveground oil storage facilities limits and requires responsible groups to submit plans detailing how they will respond to large oil spills.
Looking for more?
To learn about more environmental laws and orders in the U.S., find the current list of national legislation on the EPA’s website.