The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is an agency of the federal government of the United States charged to regulate chemicals and protect human health by safeguarding the natural environment: air, water, and land. The EPA was proposed by President Richard Nixon and began operation on December 2, 1970, when its establishment was passed by Congress, and signed into law by President Nixon, and has since been chiefly responsible for the environmental policy of the United States.
It is led by its Administrator, who is appointed by the President of the United States. The EPA is not a Cabinet agency, but the Administrator is normally given cabinet rank. The incumbent Administrator and Deputy Administrator are Stephen L. Johnson and Marcus Peacock, respectively.
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.
On July 9, 1970, President Nixon transmitted Reorganization Plan No. 3 to the United States Congress by executive order, creating the EPA as a single, independent agency from a number of smaller arms of different federal agencies. Prior to the establishment of the EPA, the federal government was not structured to comprehensively regulate the pollutants which harm human health and degrade the environment. The EPA was assigned the task of repairing the damage already done to the natural environment and to establish new criteria to guide Americans in making a cleaner, safer America.