An Overview of Environmental Protection in the United States
In 1969, Congress passed the Environmental Policy Act, creating the federal Environmental Protection Agency. Every state has created its own department of environmental protection as well. In the years following the creation of the EPA, the Congressional focus was on the cleanup of toxic waste facilities and sites. In 1976, Congress enacted the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (known as either “CERCLA” or the “Superfund” Act). CERCLA set aside $4 billion to cover the costs of environmental cleanup across the United States.

In the years following CERCLA, environmental legislation has focused on promoting clean air, clean water and minimizing the impact of climate change. In 2010, the EPA published a list of priorities for its future, which included:

  • Action on climate change, including addressing the provisions of the Kyoto protocol
  • Improved air quality, pursuant to the provisions of the Clean Air Act
  • Protection of American water resources as set forth in the Clean Water Act
  • Action to address the health risks associated with chemical production
  • Action to “clean up” American communities
  • Efforts to enhance relationships between states and native American tribes

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