Environmental Policy Under the EPA

Emma Schroeder

The simple act of creating an organization to protect the environment was a huge step for the United States government. As a result of the turbulent times in the 1960's and as people became more environmentally aware with the publishing of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, the Nixon administration realized it was in its best interest to create an agency that would work to protect the environment. The end result was the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA. While this was a major step forward for the environment, many issues arose with the creation of the EPA.

One problem with the EPA is that it is still connected to the government, and therefore is very influenced by the politics of the nation. This becomes clear when looking at how many restrictions big corporations can go right through, and how linked the EPA's decisions are to the economy. For example, carbon dioxide has not been listed under the Clean Air Act although it has been shown that excess carbon dioxide is detrimental to the environment. The gas has most likely not been placed on the list because of its importance in things such as the car industry. It seems as though there must be some way of disconnecting the EPA from the government so it does not get drawn into political battles.

Another problem that the EPA faces is risk assessment. The agency must decide what problems to take on and how much money to put into them, but this is a difficult thing to do. The easiest way of comparing two things is through a monetary analysis, but placing a number value on something like a species or an ecosystem is a hard thing to do. This is one of the reasons the EPA does not do as much to help the environment as it could: there are too many decisions that have to be made before they can help an area.


"Washington: 3 States Plan to Sue E.P.A." Revkin, Andrew. New York Times. 1/31/2003. query.nytimes.com/search/full-page?res=9A06EFDD1738F932A05752C0A9659C8B63

Link to EPA's mission statement:

"EPA's Piecemeal Risk Strategy on Way Out?" Kaiser, Jocelyn. Science. Issue 21, May 1999.

"Celebrating Technocratic Wisdom". Foster, Keneth R. Science. Issue 17, Jan 2003.

Hays, Samuel P. A history of environmental politics since 1945. Pittsburgh : University of Pittsburgh Press. 2000.

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last updated 5/13/03