Earth Day's Impact On The U.S.
Regardless of whether individuals participate in or support Earth Day, it has greatly impacted the lives of every citizen of the United States in almost every way, even if they do not realize it. Earth Day began when former U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, Gaylord Nelson, observed the 1969 enormous oil spill in Santa Barbara, California. He recognized that if he could focus the energy of the student anti-war movement into the emerging public awareness of air and water pollution, it could bring environmental protection to the forefront of the national political agenda. Senator Nelson presented his idea for a “national teach-in on the environment” to the national media. He then convinced Pete McCloskey (a conservation-minded Republican Congressman) to be his co-chair and Denis Hayes to act as the national coordinator. Earth Day 1970 realized a rare political alliance; the support from both the Republican and Democratic parties, city dwellers and farmers, business owners and labor leaders. The first Earth Day led to the creation of the following:
Clean Air Act
The Clean Air Act outlines the EPA's accountabilities for protecting and improving the nation's air quality. The enactment of the Clean Air Act of 1970 brought about a major change in the federal government's role in air pollution control. It sanctioned the development of comprehensive state and federal regulations to limit discharges from industrial and mobile sources. The four major regulatory programs affecting industrial sources that were introduced are: the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAPs), the State Implementation Plans (SIPs), New Source Performance Standards (NSPS), and the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS).
Clean Water Act
The Clean Water Act (CWA) established the basis for regulating pollutants being discharged into the waters of the United States and regulating surface water quality standards. In 1948, the foundation of the CWA was enacted and was known as the Federal Water Pollution Control Act. It was dramatically expanded and restructured in 1972, and became known as the "Clean Water Act." Under the Act, the EPA has carried out pollution control programs such as establishing wastewater standards for industry and water quality standards for all surface water contaminants.
Endangered Species Act
The Endangered Species Act (ESA) provides for the protection of threatened and endangered plants and animals and their habitats. Species include birds, insects, fish, reptiles, mammals, crustaceans, flowers, grasses, and trees. The federal agencies responsible for employing the Act are the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries Service. The FWS keeps a list of endangered species worldwide. The law obliges federal agencies, after consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and/or the NOAA Fisheries Service, to guarantee that actions they approve, fund, or carry out will not endanger the continuous existence of any listed species or result in the destruction or harmful alteration of designated critical habitat for any listed species.
United States Environmental Protection Agency
The creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was put forward by President Richard Nixon and enacted on December 2, 1970, after Nixon tendered a reorganization plan to Congress which was then ratified by committee in the House and Senate. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is assigned the task of protecting human health and the environment, by creating and enacting regulations based on laws passed by Congress.
For More Information
Thanks to the hard work and dedication of a diverse group of individuals who joined together in a common goal, our environment is now in the forefront of the nation’s and the world’s political agendas. To learn more about how Earth Day makes a difference, visit www.earthday.org.
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