From its inception, the Environmental Protection Agency’s continued dedication to their stated purpose of protecting health and the environment has made it a model of integrity in a time of so little.
Unlike other organizations, originally founded with good intentions that eventually decayed into ineptitude or a bureaucratic bird nest of misappropriated tax funding, the EPA’s constant adherence to the basic principles outlined in their mission statement make it stand out as a model of how a government agency should conduct itself.
From their continued push to research and find solutions for developing issues to their active partnership and sponsoring of programs with parallel interests, the EPA stands as the foundation of responsible policy making needed to keep this country healthy and safe.
If our Department of Education acted with a fraction of the resourcefulness or initiative of the EPA, we might see the state of U.S. education in a different position.
Perhaps the background of the EPA’s establishment can help explain its continued success as a reformer of dangerous and dirty environmental and employment practices.
Conceived as the embodiment of the grass root movement of the 1970s who saw the deteriorating state of our nation’s air, land and water, the EPA was born with a sense that it needed to rescind decades of environmental abuse by this nation.
After World War II, as Americans began enjoying a higher quality of living than ever before, a number of unfavorable changes began happening in both industry and throughout the culture of America.
The widespread use of wonder materials, like plastic, and their subsequent irresponsible disposal in landfills threatened to overtake the land’s natural ability to self-cleanse.
Add to that the population spike of the baby boom generation, the development of the “American Dream” and new scientific research showing the earliest indications of our past environmental indiscretions and it became clear that a renewed interest in the state of our environment needed to take place.
Even more impressive than the EPA’s initial development, consisting of shifting players from numerous organizations to work under an umbrella agency with a unified mission, the EPA began its life by attacking the direst needs of the nation first: passing the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts.
In addition, during that first decade the EPA remained exceptionally busy, passing legislation meant to curtail further harm to the environment while also looking out for Americans through such landmark moves as setting standards for and creating the Safe Drinking Water Act and Clean Air Act.
After the broad-sweeping legislative actions of the 1970s, in the 1980s the EPA quickly began tackling specific industries, pollution hot spots and hazardous materials.
One material, in particular, that received the needed attention that decade was asbestos, which was addressed with the requirement of all public and private schools to mandatorily remove this carcinogen from their facilities.
Perhaps in response to the emerging patterns of asbestos exposure, which was used heavily in the military, the EPA recognized the frightening mesothelioma life expectancy facts that prompted its full removal.
In 1979 the agency had operated a program to help schools voluntarily identify and resolve potential asbestos hazards in schools.
As illustrated by their revisiting of past legislation regarding asbestos, concerns over the agency’s popularity or perceived strength has never been a limit to the actions of the EPA.
Their strict desire to keep Americans safe, even in the face of contradicting their past legislation, stand out as another hallmark of an agency with integrity. Even today, the EPA refuses to rest on past legislation, recognizing unique issues that arise and adapting.
The organization’s commitment to furthering their stated purpose continues, as this remains one of the few agencies willing or capable to respond so strongly, perhaps because of the initial burdens the nation faced when the EPA was developed.
Today, the EPA continues to warn us of environmental threats, like mesothelioma symptoms, and shifting environmental threats, renewing framework for chemical management.
Highlighting the organization’s continued excellence, the EPA received the President’s Quality Award four times since the creation of the honor.
Most recently the EPA received this award, which is the highest given to an Executive Branch agency for management excellence, in 2008.
With few other organizations carrying out their intended purpose so well, as Americans it falls on us to ensure this organization continues.
Both by protecting our health and environment, and also by acting as a needed model for other organizations, including our financial, education and healthcare departments, the EPA has already built a legacy it can be proud of in its short history.
Guest Post by Eric Stevenson