As defined by Wikipedia - The Free Encyclopedia
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 3, 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 18,000 full-time employees.
The EPA employs 17,000 people in headquarters program offices, 10 regional offices, and 27 laboratories across the country. More than half of its staff are engineers, scientists, and environmental protection specialists; other groups include legal, public affairs, financial, and computer specialists.
The agency conducts environmental assessment, research, and education. It has the primary responsibility for setting 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.
Air Quality Standards Review:
Since its inception the EPA has begun to rely less and less on its scientists and more on non-science personnel. EPA has recently changed their policies regarding limits for ground-level ozone, particulates, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and lead. New policies will minimize scientist interaction with the agency and rely more on policy makers who have minimal scientific knowledge. This new policy has been criticized by Democrats. On March 12, 2008, the Federal government of the United States reported that the air in hundreds of U.S. counties was simply too dirty to breathe, ordering a multi-billion dollar expansion of efforts to clean up smog in cities and towns nationwide.
In July 2005, an EPA report showing that auto companies were using loopholes to produce less fuel-efficient cars was delayed. The report was supposed to be released the day before a controversial energy bill was passed and would have provided backup for those opposed to it, but at the last minute the EPA delayed its release.
The state of California sued the EPA for its refusal to allow California and 16 other states to raise fuel economy standards for new cars. EPA administrator Stephen L. Johnson claimed that the EPA was working on its own standards, but the move has been widely considered an attempt to shield the auto industry from environmental regulation by setting lower standards at the federal level, which would then preempt state laws. California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, along with governors from 13 other states, stated that the EPA's actions ignored federal law, and that existing California standards (adopted by many states in addition to California) were almost twice as effective as the proposed federal standards. It was reported that Stephen Johnson ignored his own staff in making this decision.
After the federal government bought out General Motors and Chrysler in the Automotive industry crisis of 2008–2010, the 2010 Chevrolet Equinox was released with EPA a fuel economy rating abnormally higher than its competitors. Independent road tests found that both vehicle did not out-perform its competitors, which had much lower fuel economy ratings. Later road tests found better, but inconclusive, results.
In June 2005, a memo revealed that Philip Cooney, former chief of staff for the White House Council on Environmental Quality, and former lobbyist for the American Petroleum Institute, had personally edited documents, summarizing government research on climate change, before their release. Cooney resigned two days after the memo was published in The New York Times. Cooney said he had been planning to resign for over two years, implying the timing of his resignation was just a coincidence. Specifically, he said he had planned to resign to "spend time with his family." One week after resigning he took a job at Exxon Mobil in their public affairs department.
In December 2007, EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson approved a draft of a document that declared that climate change imperiled the public welfare - a decision that would trigger the first national mandatory global-warming regulations. Associate Deputy Administrator Jason Burnett e-mailed the draft to the White House. White House aides - who had long resisted mandatory regulations as a way to address climate change - knew the gist of what Johnson's finding would be, Burnett said. They also knew that once they opened the attachment, it would become a public record, making it controversial and difficult to rescind. So they didn't open it; rather, they called Johnson and asked him to take back the draft. U.S. law clearly stated that the final decision was the EPA administrator's, not President Bush's. Johnson rescinded the draft; in July 2008, he issued a new version which did not state that global warming was danger to public welfare. Burnett resigned in protest.
Greenhouse Gas Emissions:
The Supreme Court ruled on April 2, 2007 in Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency that the EPA has the authority to regulate the emission of greenhouse gases in automobile emissions, stating that "greenhouse gases fit well within the Clean Air Act capacious definition of air pollutant." The court also stated that the EPA must regulate in this area unless it is able to provide a scientific reason for not doing so.
Jason K. Burnett, former EPA deputy associate administrator, told the United States Congress that an official from Vice President Dick Cheney's office censored congressional testimony by Julie L. Gerberding, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Reportedly, the testimony excluded said that "CDC considers climate change a serious public health concern."
On December 7, 2009, the Agency responded to the Supreme Court's 2007 ruling by releasing its final findings on greenhouse gases, declaring that "greenhouse gases (GHGs) threaten the public health and welfare of the American people". The finding applied to the "six key well-mixed greenhouse gases": carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride.
In March 2005, nine states (California, New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Maine, Connecticut, New Mexico and Vermont) sued the EPA. The EPA's inspector general had determined that the EPA's regulation of mercury emissions did not follow the Clean Air Act, and that the regulations were influenced by top political appointees. The EPA had suppressed a study it commissioned by Harvard University which contradicted its position on mercury controls. The suit alleges that the EPA's rule allowing exemption from "maximum available control technology" was illegal, and additionally charged that the EPA's system of pollution credit trading allows power plants to forego reducing mercury emissions. Several states also began to enact their own mercury emission regulations. Illinois' proposed rule would have reduced mercury emissions from power plants by an average of 90% by 2009.