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Milestones in U.S. EPA and Environmental History

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New Clean Air Standards for Industrial Boilers, Incinerators and Cement Kilns
Dec 20, 2012
These standards will slash toxic air pollution, including mercury and particle pollution, avoiding up to 8,100 premature deaths, 5,100 heart attacks, and 52,000 asthma attacks.
EPA Strengthens Air Standards for Fine Particles, Reducing Harmful Soot Pollution
Dec 14, 2012
With these standards in place, it is expected that by 2030, all standards that cut small particles, called PM2.5, from diesel vehicles and equipment alone will prevent up to 40,000 premature deaths, 32,000 hospital admissions and 4.7 million days of work lost due to illness.
EPA Provides States and Communities with New Recreational Water Quality Criteria to Better Protect Public Health
Nov 26, 2012
States and communities will have the most up-to-date science and information they can use to determine whether water quality is safe for the public, and when to issue an advisory or a beach closure.
Responding to Environmental Issues after Hurricane Sandy
Oct 29, 2012
EPA assessed the condition of drinking water and wastewater facilities, evaluated conditions at hazardous waste sites, and assisted in the collection of debris and household hazardous waste.
New App Lets Users Check Health of Waterways Anywhere in the U.S.
Oct 18, 2012
The app will help people find information on the condition of thousands of lakes, rivers and streams across the United States from their smart phone, tablet or desktop computer.
50 Years after the Publication of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, Expanding the Conversation on Environmentalism
Sep 27, 2012
Rachel Carson helped show many Americans that, though they may not think of themselves as environmentalists, environmental issues invariably play a role in their health and in the future of the nation.
Obama Administration Finalizes Historic 54.5 mpg Fuel Efficiency Standards
Aug 28, 2012
In total, the Obama Administration’s program to improve fuel economy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions will save consumers more than $1.7 trillion at the gas pump and will reduce U.S. oil consumption by 12 billion barrels.
EPA Updates Air Pollution Standards for Oil and Natural Gas
Apr 18, 2012
The final rules are expected to yield a nearly 95 percent reduction in emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from more than 11,000 new hydraulically fractured gas wells each year. This significant reduction would be accomplished primarily through capturing natural gas that currently escapes into the air, and making that gas available for sale. The rules also will reduce air toxics, which are known or suspected of causing cancer and other serious health effects, and emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.
EPA Proposes First Carbon Pollution Standard for New Power Plants
Mar 27, 2012
The rule creates a path forward for new technologies to be deployed at future facilities that will allow companies to burn coal, while emitting less carbon pollution. 
20 Years of Progress through the Energy Star Program
Mar 15, 2012
Over the past 20 years, with help from Energy Star partners, American families and businesses have saved about $230 billion on utility bills and prevented more than 1.7 billion metric tons of carbon pollution. 
EPA Releases the Existing Chemicals Program Strategy and Names 83 Chemicals for Further Review
Feb 2012
The strategy builds on EPA's current approach to enhance its chemical management program, which is aimed at getting more and better information on chemical risks, increasing transparency and public access to chemical information, and taking actions to manage chemical risks. 
First National Standards for Mercury Pollution from Power Plants
Dec 21, 2011
EPA issued the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, the first national standards to protect American families from power plant emissions of mercury and toxic air pollution like arsenic, acid gas, nickel, selenium, and cyanide.
Changes Proposed to Clean Air Act Standards for Boilers and Incinerators
Dec 2, 2011
The proposed standards, focusing on high-polluting boilers typically operating at refineries, chemical plants and other industrial facilities, will avoid up to 8,100 premature deaths, prevent 5,100 heart attacks and avert 52,000 asthma attacks per year in 2015.
Fuel Efficiency and Greenhouse Gas Pollution Standards for Heavy-Duty Vehicles Save $50 Billion in Fuel Costs
Aug 9, 2011
Under the comprehensive new national program, trucks and buses built in 2014 through 2018 will reduce oil consumption by a projected 530 million barrels and greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution by approximately 270 million metric tons.
Smokestack Pollution Reduced, Protecting Americans’ Health from Soot and Smog
Jul 7, 2011
The Cross-State Air Pollution Rule will protect communities that are home to 240 million Americans from smog and soot pollution, preventing up to 34,000 premature deaths, 15,000 nonfatal heart attacks, 19,000 cases of acute bronchitis, 400,000 cases of aggravated asthma, and 1.8 million sick days a year beginning in 2014 – achieving up to $280 billion in annual health benefits.
Next Generation of Fuel Economy Labels Unveiled
May 25, 2011
The new fuel economy labels will help consumers take advantage of the increased efficiency standards that will save families money at the pump starting in 2011.
EPA Establishes Landmark Chesapeake Bay "Pollution Diet"
Dec 29, 2010
The diet, formally known as the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), identifies the necessary reductions of nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment from DE, MD, NY, PA, VA, WV and DC. The diet is driven primarily by these jurisdictions’ plans to put all needed pollution controls in place by 2025. EPA will hold jurisdictions accountable for results along the way.
Aspen Institute issues "10 Ways EPA has Strengthened America"
Dec 6, 2010
Aspen looks back at the path blazed by the Agency during its first forty years and recognizes the important achievements that have made it a leading model for environmental regulatory agencies worldwide.
Greenhouse Gas Reporting
Nov 22, 2010
EPA finalized a rule on the greenhouse gas (GHG) reporting requirements for facilities that carry out geologic sequestration. Sequestration allows large emitters of carbon dioxide to significantly reduce the GHGs they emit. Information gathered under the rule will enable EPA to track the amount of carbon dioxide sequestered by these facilities.
EPA to Expand Chemicals Testing for Endocrine Disruption
Nov 16, 2010
EPA has identified a list of 134 chemicals that will be screened for their potential to disrupt the endocrine system. Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that interact with and possibly disrupt the hormones produced or secreted by the human or animal endocrine system, which regulates growth, metabolism and reproduction.
Nation's First Greenhouse Gas Fuel Efficiency Standards for Trucks and Buses
Oct 25, 2010
The program is projected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 250 million metric tons and save 500 million barrels of oil over the lives of the vehicles produced within the program’s first five years.
Obama Signs Executive Order Forming Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force
Oct 5, 2010
The task force will coordinate efforts to implement restoration programs and projects in the gulf coast region. It also will coordinate with the Department of Health and Human Services on public health issues and with other federal agencies on ways to enhance the economic benefits that ecosystem restoration will bring to the region.

Image Caption: President Obama is briefed about the situation along the Gulf Coast following the BP oil spill, at the Coast Guard Venice Center in La.
EPA Contributes Millions to Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves
Sep 21, 2010
The public-private alliance addresses one of the greatest threats facing developing countries and their populations — extraordinarily high exposures to toxic smoke from indoor fires and inefficient cookstoves that lead to nearly two million deaths each year, primarily in young children and women.
National Lead-Safe Renovation Program to Protect Children and Pregnant Women
Apr 23, 2010
EPA announces that renovations and repairs of pre-1978 housing must now be conducted using safe practices to protect children and pregnant women from exposure to lead-based paint. Almost a million children have elevated blood lead levels as a result of exposure to lead hazards, which can lead to lower intelligence, learning disabilities, and behavior issues.
Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill
Apr 20, 2010
The BP-operated Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico explodes, killing eleven workers. The resulting release is the largest oil spill in American history. President Obama, EPA Administrator Jackson and hundreds of other federal, state and local officials step up to address the challenge. 
Stronger Smog Standard
Jan 6, 2010
EPA proposes the strictest health standards to date for smog. Smog, also known as ground-level ozone, is linked to a number of serious health problems, ranging from aggravation of asthma to increased risk of premature death in people with heart or lung disease. Ozone can even harm healthy people who work and play outdoors.
Greenhouse Gases Endangerment Finding
Dec 7, 2009
After a thorough examination of the science and careful consideration of public comments, EPA announces that greenhouse gases threaten the health and welfare of the American people. As a result, greenhouse gases that lead to climate change can be regulated under the Clean Air Act.
Administrator Lisa P. Jackson
Jul 1, 2009
Lisa P. Jackson is sworn in as EPA Administrator under President Barack Obama. She is the agency's first African-American Administrator.
California Tackles Greenhouse Gases
Jun 30, 2009
The EPA gives California permission to set its own auto emissions standards beginning with 2009 models, while federal emissions standards will take effect in 2012. The EPA granted California a waiver because of its severe pollution problems.
Chesapeake Bay Executive Order
May 12, 2009
President Barack Obama signs an Executive Order recognizing the Chesapeake Bay as a national treasure and calling on the federal government to lead a renewed effort to restore and protect the nation’s largest estuary and its watershed.
Clean Cars Program
Apr 1, 2009
The Obama Administration joins with environmental advocates, members of the auto industry and state officials to formally announce a program that sets the nation’s first-ever greenhouse gas emissions standards for cars. 
Initiative to Monitor Levels of Toxic Air Pollutants Near Schools
Mar 2, 2009
EPA and its state partners begin to monitor schools for more extensive air quality analysis, looking closely at schools located near large industries and in urban areas.
Stimulus Plan
Feb 19, 2009
President Obama signs the Reinvestment and Recovery Act, which provides $7 billion for EPA projects and programs. The funding will protect and promote jobs that protect our health and environment, like efforts to reduce diesel emissions and cleanup of hazardous waste sites and leaking underground storage tanks.
TVA Kingston Fossil Plant Spill
Dec 22, 2008
A containment pond rupture at the Tennessee Valley Authority's Kingston Fossil Plant in Roane County, Tennessee releases 1.1 billion gallons of coal fly ash slurry on land and into waterways. The incident has since led the EPA to begin to review coal ash sites throughout the country. 
Stronger Lead Standards
Oct 16, 2008
The first new lead standards in 30 years require a tenfold decrease in lead levels. The new standard became .15 micrograms of lead per cubic meter of air and was based on new research and Clean Air Scientific Advisory Council recommendations. Lead can affect multiple organ systems and some studies link it to developmental problems in children.
Yucca Mountain Standards
Oct 14, 2008
EPA sets standards to protect people and the environment at the proposed Yucca Mountain storage site for highly radioactive wastes. EPA requires that the Yucca Mountain meet the standards for one million years.
Drastic Cuts in Locomotive and Marine Diesel Pollution
Mar 14, 2008
When fully implemented, these new standards will reduce soot or particulate matter (PM) by 90 percent or 27,000 tons and reduce nitrogen oxides emissions (NOx) by 80 percent or nearly 800,000 tons.
BP Pays Largest Criminal Fine Ever for Air Violations
Oct 25, 2007
BP Products North America agrees to pay a $62 million criminal fine, plus $400 million on safety upgrades. The penalty was for the 2005 refinery explosion that killed 15 and the 2006 oil spill on the Alaskan tundra. BP violated the Clean Air and Water Acts.
EPA Employees Share Nobel Peace Prize for Work on Climate Change
Oct 12, 2007
Thirty EPA employees share the Nobel Peace Prize for their work with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Read the IPCC's statement about the prize (PDF)
EPA Issues Ground Water Rule
Oct 11, 2006
EPA Issues the Ground Water Rule to reduce risk of contaminations in public water systems that use ground water. Ground water had historically been considered free from contamination, but 1996 data from the Center for Disease Control showed 318 waterborne disease outbreaks over the previous two decades at systems using ground water. The new rule protects consumers regardless of their system’s water source.
EPA Strengthens National Air Quality Standards
Sep 21, 2006
EPA issues the strongest national air quality standards for particle pollution in our country’s history. The new standards protect public health and our nation’s ecosystems and national treasures from dangerous soot and smog.
EPA Offsets Electricity
Sep 1, 2006
EPA signs its first blanket green power contract, investing in wind energy to offset 100% of its electricity use. The EPA was the first federal agency to do so.
EPA's WaterSense Program Created
Jun 12, 2006
EPA and industry partners join to create the WaterSense Program, which seeks to protect the future of our nation's water supply by offering practical ways to use less water. Through the use of water-efficient products and services, WaterSense has helped consumers save 46 billion gallons of water and $343 million on their water and sewer bills since its launch.
Clean Diesel
Jun 1, 2006
Refiners and fuel importers are required to start producing Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel, which contains 97% less sulfur than fuel used previously. This cleaner-burning fuel and was expected to reduce air pollution from diesel engines by more than 90 percent,. That amounts to 2.6 million tons of nitrogen oxides and over 100,000 tons of particulate matter.
EPA Responds to Hurricane Katrina
Aug 23, 2005
EPA restores air quality monitoring networks destroyed by the storm and assesses air quality in the hurricane-affected area to ensure public safety.
Administrator Stephen L. Johnson
May 1, 2005 to Jan 19, 2009
Stephen L. Johnson becomes EPA Administrator under President George W. Bush. Johnson first began working at the EPA in 1979. A 27-year veteran of the Agency, he was the first career employee to hold the position of Administrator and the first scientist to head the Agency.
EPA Launches Methane to Markets International Partnership (now the Global Methane Initiative)
Nov 16, 2004
EPA Launches Methane to Markets International Partnership, an initiative that advances cost-effective methane recovery to use as a clean energy source. The goal of the Partnership is to reduce global methane emissions to enhance economic growth, strengthen energy security, ensure industrial safety, and improve air quality.
Image Caption: Cows and other cud-chewing livestock produce 80 million metric tons of methane annually.
Reduced Emissions for Off-road Vehicles with Diesel Engines
May 11, 2004
The Clean Air Nonroad Diesel Rule will cut emission levels from construction, agricultural and industrial diesel-powered equipment by more than 90 percent. The new rule will also remove 99 percent of the sulfur in diesel fuel by 2010, resulting in dramatic reductions in soot from all diesel engines.
Clean School Bus USA Reduces Children's Exposure to Diesel Emissions from Buses
Jan 30, 2004
This program encourages policies and practices to eliminate unnecessary public school bus idling; upgrades buses that will remain in the fleet with better emission-control technologies and/or fueling them with cleaner fuels; and replaces the oldest buses in the fleet with new, less-polluting buses.
Administrator Michael O. Leavitt
Nov 5, 2003 to Jan 24, 2005
Michael O. Leavitt becomes EPA Administrator under President George W. Bush. As Administrator he implemented higher standards for ozone, diesel fuels and other air pollutants. He also organized and managed a collaboration to develop a federal plan to clean up the Great Lakes.
Largest Clean Air Act Settlement with Utility
Apr 21, 2003
Virginia Electric Power Co. (VEPCo) agrees to spend $1.2 billion to reduce its annual 237, 000 tons of emissions. The company's 10 electrical power plants release sulfor dioxide and nitrogen oxides, which are acid rain ingredients. VEPCo also spent five million dolllars on projects in states affected by the coal-fired plants' pollution. For example, the company paid for schoolbus engine retrofitting to reduce diesel exposure and solar panels on municipal buildings.
Hudson River Cleanup
Feb 1, 2002
EPA officially moves to clean up Hudson River PCB contamination by removing approximately 2.65 million cubic yards of contaminated sediment from a 40-mile stretch of the river. 
EPA Responds to the 9/11 Terrorist Attacks
Sep 11, 2001
EPA sets up monitors to collect air quality data in and around Ground Zero, protecting the health of emergency workers and citizens. 
 
Global POPs Treaty
May 23, 2001
Administrator Whitman signs a global treaty on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs). The agreement between over 90 nations was important for the U.S. because the toxic chemicals can harm Americans even when they're used abroad. That's because they stay in the environment for long periods of time and accumulate as they move from soil to plants to the food we eat.
Administrator Christine Todd Whitman
Jan 30, 2001 to Jun 26, 2003
Christine Todd Whitman becomes EPA Administrator under President George W. Bush. As Administrator she introduced the Clear Skies Initiative; established a watershed-based approach to protecting our nation's lakes, streams, and rivers; and saw the passage of landmark brownfields legislation that is bringing economic and environmental vitality back to neighborhoods marred by abandoned industrial sites.
Pesticides Ban
Jun 8, 2000
Administrator Browner announces a ban of most uses of Dursban. It was previously the most widely used household pesticide in the nation, but posed a risk to children's health.
New Emissions Standards for Cars
Dec 21, 1999
President Bill Clinton announces tougher tailpipe emissions standards for cars, sport utility vehicles, minivans and trucks, requiring them to be 77 to 95 percent cleaner.
Regional Haze Rule
Jul 1, 1999
EPA announces additional requirements to improve air quality and reduce haze in national parks and wilderness areas.
Common Sense Initiative Success
Dec 18, 1998
Administrator Browner receives Vice President Gore's Hammer Award for the EPA's Common Sense Initiative, an experiment with industry regulation. One outcome was that the metal fishing industry agreed to innovate their pollution prevention techniques although it was not required by law. The award was designed to recognize people making the government more efficient.
Data by Zipcode
Aug 6, 1998
The EPA launches a web site providing information on air and water toxic levels in specific communities. The idea later evolved into user-friendly maps that provide data on a specific location with the click of a mouse.
New Air Quality Standards
Jul 17, 1997
EPA issues tough new air quality standards for smog and soot, an action that will improve air quality for 125 million Americans.
 
Protection for Children Against Environmental Risks
Apr 21, 1997
President Bill Clinton signs Executive Order 13045, protecting children from environmental health risks, including childhood asthma and lead poisoning.
Great Lakes Cleanup
Apr 7, 1997
Administrator Browner and Canada's Minister of the Environment sign a plan to remove toxic substances from the Great Lakes by 2006. The Lakes provided drinking water to over 15 million people.
Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments
Aug 6, 1996
President Clinton signs amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act to improve protections ensuring that all Americans have access to clean, safe drinking water. The law makes funding available to upgrade water treatment plants and requires public drinking water suppliers to inform customers about chemicals and microbes in their water.
Food Quality Protection Act
Aug 3, 1996
President Bill Clinton signs the Food Quality Protection Act to tighten standards for pesticides used to grow food, with special protections to ensure that foods are safe for children to eat.
Lead Paint Requirements
Mar 6, 1996
EPA requires that homebuyers and renters be informed about lead-based paint hazards.
Leaded Gasoline Phased Out
Jan 29, 1996
The EPA completes a 25-year mission to completely remove lead from gasoline. Administrator Browner called it "one of the great environmental achievements of all time."
Municipal Waste Combustors
Dec 19, 1995
EPA requires municipal waste combustors -- incinerators that burn household and commercial waste -- to reduce toxic emissions by 90 percent from 1990 levels. About 90 percent of municipal waste combustors are waste-to-energy plants which generate electricity or steam from burning garbage for commercial and residential use.
First Refinery Regulation
Jul 28, 1995
The EPA announces a rule to reduce air pollution at 192 petroleum refineries and all future sites. The 53,000-ton emissions cut benefitted 4.5 million Americans living near the refineries.
Brownfields Program
Jun 30, 1994
EPA launches its Brownfields Program to clean up abandoned, contaminated sites and return them to productive community use. In the years since brownfields began, EPA has cleaned up more than 450 contaminated sites. Through Brownfields job training partnerships, the program has played a role in creating more than 61,000 jobs.
New Standards for Chemical Plants
Mar 1, 1994
EPA issues new standards for chemical plants that will reduce toxic air pollution by more than half a million tons each year- the equivalent of taking 38 million vehicles off the road annually.
Environmental Justice
Feb 16, 1994
President Clinton issues an executive order that all federal agencies prioritize environmental justice for minorities and low-income populations. In 1992, an EPA report revealed that those populations were exposed more than others to air pollution and other environmental hazards.
Schedule to End Manufacture of CFCs and Other Chemicals that Thin the Ozone Layer
Nov 30, 1993
The production of CFCs ended in 1996, and the production of all ozone depleters will end by 2030.
Environmentally Preferable Purchasing
Oct 23, 1993
President Bill Clinton directs the federal government to use its $200 billion in annual purchasing power to buy recycled and environmentally preferable products.
Passive Smoking Health Effects
Jun 30, 1993
EPA completes its risk assessment on "The Respiratory Health Effects of Passsive Smoking: Lung Cancer and Other Disorders." The report concludes that exposure to environmental, or secondhand, tobacco smoke is responsible for approximately 3,000 lung cancer deaths each year in nonsmoking adults and also impairs the respiratory health of hundreds of thousands of children.
Cryptosporidium Outbreak in Milwaukee
Mar 23, 1993
Cryptosporidium, a parasidic disease spread by contaminated water, sickens 400,000 people and kills more than 100 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Now, EPA regulates Cryptosporidium in drinking water, through the Interim Enhanced Surface Water Treatment Rule.
Acid Rain for Sale
Mar 5, 1993
EPA rules that the right to emit sulfur dioxide, an acid rain ingredient, will become a commodity in 2000. The goal was to create an incentive for companies to reduce pollution, because they could resell their alloted emissions rights if they polluted less than the legal limit. This was the first time emission rights could be traded.
Administrator Carol M. Browner
Jan 21, 1993 to Jan 18, 2001
Carol M. Browner begins the longest term of any EPA Administrator, eight years, under President Bill Clinton. Under Browner's leadership, the EPA created the first-ever comprehensive restoration plan for the Florida Everglades and implemented Clinton's Clean Water Action Plan. Browner also set new standards for pesticides used in food production and supported the public's right to a transparent government.
New York City Stops Dumping Sewage in the Ocean
Jun 30, 1992
New York City was the last U.S. city to dump sewage at sea. It stopped as a result of its agreement with EPA under the Ocean Dumping Ban Act of 1988.
Image Caption: Incinerator plant ashes loaded on a barge for ocean dumping
Energy Star Program
Jun 17, 1992
EPA joins hands with the U.S. Department of Energy to start the Energy Star program to help Americans save money and protect the environment through energy-efficient products and practices. In 2009, Americans used Energy Star to save nearly $17 billion on utility bills and avoid greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those from 30 million cars. Since it's creation, Energy Star has been adopted by Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Taiwan and the European Union. 
Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Jun 3, 1992
EPA Administrator William K. Reilly leads the US delegation to the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, or "Earth Summit", in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The event represents a diplomatic breakthrough and opens up the possibility for a new era of serious environmental stewardship coupled with global economic growth. 
Eco-Terrorism Against Kuwait
Mar 10, 1991
After Iraqi forces torch and destroy over 500 oil wells, the EPA leads a team into Kuwait to see if the air is toxic enough to kill. Luckily it wasn't, but the damage was still devastating. EPA staffers helped clean up the deliberate oil spills, but the danger of mines under the oil made usual techniques impossible.
National Environmental Education Act
Nov 16, 1990
Congress directs EPA to support environmental education programs for students and teachers and to encourage students to pursue careers related to the environment.
Acid Rain Controls Enacted
Nov 15, 1990
Congress passes the Clean Air Act Amendments, imposing a new cap and trade approach to addressing acid rain by reducing sulfur dioxide emissions from power plants across the country. The Amendments also implement controls to phase out ozone-depleting substances, like CFC's. In their place, industry creates new technology that is cleaner, cuts costs and improves productivity and quality. 
Pollution Prevention Act
Nov 5, 1990
President George Bush signs the Pollution Prevention Act, emphasizing the importance of policies and actions that prevent environmental damage before it happens.
Toxic Waste Control
May 8, 1990
The EPA rules that the most hazardous wastes must be treated before they are disposed of on land. This prevents toxins from seeping into the ground and contaminiating the water supply.
Toxic Release Inventory
Apr 19, 1990
EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory tells the public which pollutants are being released from specific facilities in their communities.
Alar (Daminozide) Pesticide Banned for Use on Foods
Nov 7, 1989
EPA ordered an immediate prohibition on all sales, distribution and use of daminozide on all food crops, based on evidence that it causes tumors in laboratory animals and that lifetime dietary exposure to this product may result in an unacceptable risk to public health.
Exxon Valdez Spill
Mar 24, 1989
Exxon Valdez spills 11 million gallons of crude oil into Alaska’s Prince William Sound and is fined $1 billion. The spill spurs the adoption of the Pollution Prevention Act. 
Administrator William K. Reilly
Feb 5, 1989 to Jan 19, 1993
William K. Reilly becomes the EPA Administrator under President George H.W. Bush. He served as the American representative to the Rio Earth Summit in 1992. He was an instrumental figure in the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, which contained the first provisions to control acid rain. 
Sewage Ocean-Dumping Ban
Nov 17, 1988
Congress bans ocean-dumping of sewage sludge and industrial waste.
Launch of EPA Radon Program
Oct 5, 1988
EPA begins to encourage homeowners to test for radon, a gas that can cause lung cancer, after the passage of The Indoor Radon Abatement Act of 1988.
Standards for Underground Storage Tanks
Sep 13, 1988
EPA issues comprehensive and stringent requirements for nearly two million underground storage tanks, half of which are used to store gasoline at service stations, in order to protect local water supplies from contamination by petroleum and chemical products stored underground.
Montreal Protocol Signed by U.S.
Sep 16, 1987
President Ronald Reagan signs the Montreal Protocol, joining international partners in the first efforts to protect the ozone layer. Since that time, the Montreal Protocol has been repeatedly strengthened by both controlling additional ozone-depleting substances and moving up the dates on which controlled substances must be phased out.
Image Caption: Delegates at the 2010 Montreal Protocol Meeting of the Parties in Bangkok
Medical Waste Tracking Act
Sep 1, 1987
Medical and other waste washes up on shores, closing beaches in New York and New Jersey. Concern over the potential health hazards prompt Congress to enact the Medical Waste Tracking Act of 1988.
"Right to Know” Laws for Chemical Safety
Oct 17, 1986
Congress declares the public has a right to know when toxic chemicals that are released into the air, land, and water. President Reagan signs the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act. 
Wetlands Protection
Oct 6, 1986
Administrator Thomas names endangered wetlands as a top EPA priority and announces the new Office of Wetlands Protection. He charged the new office with researching wetlands ecosystems, reaching out to property owners and educating them on wetlands value, and strengthening protection measures.
Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments
Jun 19, 1986
Reagan signs the Amendments, which require the EPA to regulate over 100 contaminants by 1991 and expand EPA enforcement power. The legislation also banned the use of lead materials in water systems and called for tighter regulation of drinking water wells.
The Chernobyl Accident
Apr 26, 1986 12:00 AM
A reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine explodes and burns, emitting large quantities of radioactive material into the air. EPA’s monitoring shows no threat to the U.S. and reassures the public. EPA later constructs a mobile radiation laboratory for Ukraine.
Hole in the Ozone Layer Discovered
May 16, 1985
British Antarctic Survey team discovers a 7.3 million square mile ozone hole over Antarctica, marking the first evidence of stratospheric ozone depletion. Scientific research reveals the widening ozone hole can have adverse environmental and health effects, including high exposure to ultraviolet light. 
90 Percent Reduction of Lead in Gasoline
Mar 4, 1985
The EPA sets the final standard to .10 grams per leaded gallon starting January 1, 1986. An interim standard of .50 grams per leaded gallon took effect July 1, 1985.
Administrator Lee M. Thomas
Feb 7, 1985 to Jan 19, 1989
Administrator Lee M. Thomas serves as EPA Administrator, serving under President Ronald Reagan. Under his leadership, the U.S. signed the Montreal Protocol, pledging to phase out the use of CFC's and passing rules for phasing out lead additives from gasoline. Administrator Thomas was also the head of a government-wide task force to coordinate the federal response to the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.
Hazardous and Solid Waste Amendments of 1984 Passed
Nov 9, 1984
These amendments to the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) established requirements governing generators, transporters, and disposers of small quantities of hazardous wastes who have generally not been subject to full regulation under RCRA and mandated that land disposal of a hazardous waste must be banned unless EPA determines that the prohibition of such disposal is not necessary to protect human health and the environment.
Chesapeake Bay Pollution Cleanup
Dec 9, 1983
Federal, state and local partners initiate a clean up of the Chesapeake Bay, which is plagued with pollution from sewage treatment plants, urban runoff and farm waste. The cleanup continues today.
Emergency EDB Ban
Sep 30, 1983
EPA orders the emergency suspension of ethylene dibromide (EDB) as a soil fumigant. The Agency took action after new test results showed that EDB, a carcinogen and mutagen, was contaminating groundwater. The EPA also ordered the phase-out of other pesticide uses of EDB, which amounted to 20 million pounds of the chemical produced per year in the U.S.
"Fishbowl" Policy
May 19, 1983
Ruckelshaus commits the EPA to communicating as openly as possible. The Administrator sent out a guidance letter to all employees, asking them to keep the public in the loop on decision making and making more specific rules, like publicizing key officers' meeting calendars. Administrator schedules are still posted on the EPA web site.
Administrator William D. Ruckelshaus
May 17, 1983 to Jan 3, 1985
Administrator Ruckelshaus returns as EPA Administrator under President Ronald Reagan. He is the only administrator to serve twice.
Olin Corporation Pays for DDT Damage
Apr 21, 1983
The Olin Corporation, which contaminated a facility site with DDT, agrees to pay for the cleanup and fund healthcare for residents of nearby Triana, Alabama. This was the first time that EPA enforcement led to a company providing health care.
Dioxin Contamination in Times Beach, Missouri
Dec 23, 1982
EPA detects dioxin contamination after a flood in Times Beach, Missouri. Residents were evacuated and the government and responsible polluters shared the cleanup costs. The EPA commited $22.1 million from the Superfund to relocate residents.
Environmental Justice Movement Begins
Sep 15, 1982
A PCB landfill protest in Warren County, North Carolina - a predominantly poor, African-American area - launches the environmental justice movement. Environmental Justice is the fair treatment and involvement of all people, regardless of race or income, in decisions on development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental policies.
Asbestos Testing in Schools
May 24, 1982
EPA anounces a rule requiring all elementary and secondary U.S. schools to test for asbestos in their buildings. School districts were encouraged to consult with EPA if they found asbestos, a human carcinogen. The rule applied to friable asbestos, meaning a material that, when dry, can be crumbled, pulverized, or reduced to powder by hand.
Nuclear Waste Policy Act
Jan 1, 1982
President Ronald Reagan signs The Nuclear Waste Policy Act, allowing for the safe storage and disposal of radioactive waste. The Act establishes procedures to evaluate and select sites for geologic repositories and encourages the interaction of state and federal governments. 
Valley of the Drums
Sep 18, 1981
EPA announces $400,000 plan to remove drums full of chemical waste and detoxify runoff water from a 23-acre area. The Bullitt County, Kentucky location contained potentially flammable chemicals and was one of the nation's worst ever abandoned waste sites.
Administrator Anne M. Gorsuch (Burford)
May 20, 1981 to May 17, 1983
Anne Gorsuch becomes the first female EPA Administrator, serving under President Ronald Reagan. 
Congress Creates the Superfund Program
Dec 10, 1980
Congress creates the Superfund Program, holding polluters responsible for cleaning up most hazardous waste sites. The initial program designated $1 billion for cleanup efforts.
Love Canal Lawsuit
Dec 20, 1979
The U.S. sues Hooker Chemical for over $100 million in cleanup costs for the company's four dangerous dump sites in New York.
Bubble Policy
Dec 3, 1979
EPA gives industry managers flexibility to clean up air pollution their own ways. The policy was designed to cut cleanup costs and stimulate innovation.
PCB Phase-out Begins
Apr 19, 1979
EPA begins phasing out the production and use of PCBs, a family of synthetic chemicals used in paint, cement and other household and commercial products. Because of their toxicity and persistence in the environment, PCB's can pollute air, water and land, and are believed to cause cancer.
Three Mile Island Nuclear Accident
Mar 28, 1979
A severe meltdown of the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, raises awareness and provokes discussion about nuclear power safety. As a result, EPA and other agencies begin monitoring radioactive fallout and The White House choses the EPA to monitor radiation levels around Three Mile Island.
Phaseout of Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)
Oct 15, 1978
EPA's phaseout of fluorocarbon gases, which destroy the ozone layer, begins today. The gases were used in aerosol products like hair spray, deodorant, and household cleaners. Companies switched to safer propellant gas options or mechanical pumps.
EPA Sets New National Air Pollution Standard for Lead
Sep 29, 1978
EPA announced its final atmospheric air quality standard to protect the public health from exposure to airborne lead, a pollutant that may, even at low levels of exposure, harm human nervous and blood-forming systems.
Love Canal Disaster
Aug 2, 1978
Residents discover that Love Canal, NY, is contaminated by buried leaking chemical containers. The pollution is linked to serious health threats like cancer and birth defects. President Carter declares an emergency, authorizing the EPA to help temporariliy relocate about 700 families. In 1980 Congress passed Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, also called the Superfund Act, which authorized EPA to identify parties responsible for contamination of sites and compel the parties to clean up the sites. 
Clean Water Act of 1977
Dec 28, 1977
President Jimmy Carter signs the Clean Water Act, amending the 1972 version. The Act stressed the importance of toxic pollutant control. A construction grant over five years created thousands of jobs, aided state and local planning, and encouraged experimentation with new water treatment methods.
Clean Air Act Amendments
Aug 8, 1977
President Jimmy Carter signs the Clean Air Act Amendments to further strengthen air quality standards and protect human health. The stronger protections spurred the development of scrubber technology, which removes air pollution from coal-fired power plants. 
Safer Drinking Water
Jun 25, 1977
National drinking water standards went into effect for the first time. For the first time, all public water suppliers were required to test their public water routinely and notify their customers if water was not up to EPA standards.
Administrator Douglas M. Costle
Mar 6, 1977 to Jan 19, 1981
Douglas M. Costle becomes the third EPA Administrator, serving under President Jimmy Carter. As Administrator, Costle chaired the U.S. Regulatory Council and was President Carter's representative to NATO's Committee on the Challenges to a Modern Society and the United States Chair of the U.S./U.S.S.R. Joint Committee on Cooperation in the Field of Environmental Protection. He also served as Chair of the U.S./People's Republic of China Environmental Protection Protocol.
Toxic Substances Control Act
Oct 11, 1976
President Gerald Ford signs the Toxic Substances Control Act to curtail environmental and health risks posed by the growing number of synthetic and organic chemicals in consumer products and the environment.
Resource Conservation and Recovery Act
Sep 30, 1976
The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act gives EPA authority to control hazardous waste from the "cradle-to-grave," including the generation, transportation, treatment, storage, and disposal of harmful materials.
Energy Policy and Conservation Act
Dec 22, 1975
Congress establishes fuel economy standards and tailpipe emission standards for cars. 1973 is the first model year in which the catalytic converter controls pollution and helps meet reductions required under the Clean Air Act.
Cancer-Causing Pesticides Banned
Jul 30, 1975
Administrator Train orders the suspension of two lawn and garden pesticides, heptachlor and chlordane, after the chemicals caused cancer in mice and rats. New studies that led to Train's decision revealed that about 75% of dairy and meat products in the United States contained the chemicals and that virtually every person in the U.S. had residue of the chemical in their bodies, including unborn babies.
Cutting Aid to Polluters
Apr 17, 1975
The EPA creates new regulations banning federal agencies from awarding contracts, grants, or loans to plants and facilities who violate the Clean Air Act or Water Pollution Control Act.
Jet-Plane Noise Control
Jan 31, 1975
The EPA announces its proposal to the Federal Aviation Administration to quiet jetplanes. EPA had jurisdiction over federal noise regulation under the 1972 Noise Control Act, but noise issues were phased out of the budget in 1981 when they were delegated to state and local governments.
Safe Drinking Water Act
Dec 16, 1974 9:00 AM
Congress passes the Safe Drinking Water Act, allowing EPA to regulate the quality of public drinking water.
EPA Book In Children's Cereal Boxes
Jan 31, 1974
The EPA teamed up with General Mills to educate young children about the environment. General Mills distributed over 60 million copies of an EPA-created children's book by packaging the learning tool in kids' cereal boxes.
Leaded Gasoline Phase-Out
Dec 8, 1973
On November 28, 1973 EPA released a study confirming that lead from automobile exhaust posed a direct threat to public health. On December 8 of that same year EPA issues regulations gradually reducing lead in gasoline. 
Transportation Controls
Oct 15, 1973
The EPA creates new transportation controls in some of the nation's largest cities, including Los Angeles, Boston, Dallas, and others. Measures included exclusive bus lanes, bypass lanes for carpools and buses, parking garages and restrictions, and a mass transit incentive plan for California employers.
Administrator Russell E. Train
Sep 12, 1973 to Jan 19, 1977
Russell Errol Train becomes the second EPA Administrator, serving under President Richard Nixon and President Gerald Ford. During his time as agency head, he led the approval of the catalytic converter to achieve Clean Air Act automobile emission reductions, the implementation of the Toxic Substances Control Act and the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System.
Oil Embargo
Jul 1, 1973
The OPEC oil embargo triggers a spike in oil prices and scarcity of supply, stimulating conservation and research into alternative energy sources.
Auto Maintenance Regulations
Jun 4, 1973
The EPA sets regulations on car manufacturing and testing for compliance with Clean Air Act emissions standards. Car manufacturers were required to install malfunction warning systems in cars made in 1975 or later, and the EPA specified conditions under which manufacturers could perform maintenance to cars during their 50,000-mile test for meeting emissions standards.
First Wastewater Permits Issued
Mar 1, 1973 9:00 PM
In the first action of its kind in the nation, the Indiana Stream Pollution Control Board issues EPA-approved permits to five Indiana companies. 
Ocean Dumping Act
Oct 23, 1972
Congress enacts the Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act, or Ocean Dumping Act, to reduce ocean water pollution. Within three years, the EPA had denied 70 contracts, many of them for chemical dumping.
Clean Water Act
Oct 18, 1972
Congress passes the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, commonly known as the Clean Water Act. The purpose of the Clean Water Act is to restore and maintain our nation's waters by preventing pollution, providing assistance to publicly-owned wastewater treatment facilities, and maintaining the integrity of wetlands.  
EPA Bans DDT
Jun 14, 1972
After public concerns about the health effects of the widely-used pesticide DDT, EPA bans its use and requires extensive review of all pesticides.
EPA and U.S.S.R Scientists Join Forces
May 23, 1972
The EPA and U.S.S.R. sign an agreement establishing the Joint Committe on Cooperation in the Field of Environmental Protection. The Committee went on to research earthquake prediction, air and water pollution control, and pipeline building techniques in areas with frozen ground.
Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement
Apr 15, 1972
The U.S. and Canada agree to clean up the Great Lakes, which contain 95 percent of America’s fresh water and supply drinking water to approximately 25 million people.
Vehicle Fuel Economy Testing
Dec 31, 1971
EPA begins testing the fuel economy of cars, trucks and other vehicles, the first step towards informing consumers about the gas mileage of their vehicles.
Major Revisions to FIFRA
Oct 20, 1971 9:00 PM
President Nixon signs major revisions to the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act to better protect the American people from ineffective or deceptively-labeled pesticide products.
EPA Defines Air Pollution Danger Levels
Oct 19, 1971
EPA defined, for five of the most common air contaminants, the levels at which "significant harm" to the health of persons might occur during episodes of high air pollution.
EPA Takes National Action on Air Quality
Apr 30, 1971
Administrator Ruckelshaus announces national standards on six common pollutants: sulfur oxides, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, photochemical oxidants, nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons.This was four years ahead of the regulation deadline set by the Clean Air Act.
Lead-Based Paint Restrictions
Jan 13, 1971
To protect children from developmental challenges, Congress restricts use of lead-based paint in homes and on cribs and toys in the Lead-Based Paint Poisoning Prevention Act.
Clean Air Act of 1970
Dec 31, 1970
Congress authorizes the EPA to set national air quality, auto emission, and anti-pollution standards. The standards led to the production of the catalytic converter in 1973 by New Jersey's Engelhard Corporation. In its first 20 years, the Clean Air Act prevented more than 200,000 premature deaths by significantly reducing the presence of lead, sulfur dioxide and other harmful pollutants in the air. 
Administrator William D. Ruckelshaus
Dec 3, 1970 to Apr 29, 1973
William D. Ruckelshaus serves as the first head of the Environmental Protection Agency under President Richard Nixon. During his early tenure he oversaw a seven-month hearing on DDT, a carcinogenic pesticide, after which he instituted a ban of DDT. DDT was the pesticide featured in Rachel Carson's 1962 book “Silent Spring” as a threat to wildlife, and perhaps to humans. 
Official Formation of EPA
Dec 2, 1970
Following President Richard Nixon's "Reorganization Plan No. 3" issued in July 1970, EPA is officially established on December 2nd, 1970. The agency consolidates federal research, monitoring and enforcement activities in a single agency. EPA's mission is to protect human health by safeguarding the air we breathe, water we drink and land on which we live.
First Earth Day
Apr 22, 1970
More than 20 million Americans participate in one of the largest grassroots community service movements in our history. Earth Day is now celebrated every year by almost 1 billion people worldwide.
President Nixon Signs NEPA
Jan 1, 1970
The bill forms the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) to advise the President on the environment and review federal agencies' Environmental Impact Statements, required for projects that would affect the environment.
Fire on Cuyahoga River
Jun 29, 1969
The Cuyahoga River in Ohio becomes so polluted that it catches on fire. The 1969 Cuyahoga River fire helped spur an avalanche of water pollution control activities like the Clean Water Act and the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. By bringing national attention to water pollution issues, the Cuyahoga River fire was one of the events that led to the creation of the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.
Rachel Carson's Silent Spring Published
1962
Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, an indignant look at pollution in the United States, jump-starts the environmental movement. Carson, a birdwatcher, worried that pesticides were killing off her feathered friends. She also wrote about harmful chemicals used for defoliation in the Vietnam War.