January 10, 2012
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA or sometimes USEPA) is an agency of the federal government of the United States charged with protecting human health and the environment, by writing and enforcing regulations based on laws passed by Congress. The EPA was proposed by President Richard Nixon and began operation on December 2, 1970, after Nixon submitted a reorganization plan to Congress and it was ratified by committee hearings in the House and Senate. The agency is led by its Administrator, who is appointed by the president and approved by Congress. The current administrator is Lisa P. Jackson. The EPA is not a Cabinet department, but the administrator is normally given cabinet rank. The agency has approximately 17,000 full-time employees.
The EPA employs approximately 17,000 people, and engages many more on a contractual basis. More than half of EPA human resources are engineers, scientists, and environmental protection specialists; other groups include legal, public affairs, financial, and information technologists.
EPA offices include:
regional offices for each of the agency’s 10 regions
The agency conducts environmental assessment, research, and education. It has the responsibility of maintaining and enforcing national standards under a variety of environmental laws, in consultation with state, tribal, and local governments. It delegates some permitting, monitoring, and enforcement responsibility to U.S. states and Native American tribes. EPA enforcement powers include fines, sanctions, and other measures.
The agency also works with industries and all levels of government in a wide variety of voluntary pollution prevention programs and energy conservation efforts.
On July 9, 1970, citing rising concerns over environmental protection and conservation, President Richard Nixon transmitted Reorganization Plan No. 3 to the United States Congress by executive order, creating the EPA as a single, independent agency from a number of smaller arms of different federal agencies. Prior to the establishment of the EPA, the federal government was not structured to comprehensively regulate environmental pollutants.
The EPA began regulating greenhouse gases (GHGs) from mobile and stationary sources of air pollution under the Clean Air Act (CAA) for the first time on January 2, 2011. Standards for mobile sources have been established pursuant to Section 202 of the CAA, and GHGs from stationary sources are controlled under the authority of Part C of Title I of the Act. See the page Regulation of Greenhouse Gases Under the Clean Air Act for further information.