tv Reel America Environmental Protection Agency History 1970-1985 CSPAN August 16, 2019 2:35pm-2:55pm EDT
with brotherhood ♪ ♪ from sea to shining sea ♪ >> dark skies and ruined water, burning rivers, oil spills, closed beaches. silent spring. 20 years ago, the wealthiest nation the world had ever known, a people who enjoyed a level of private consumption undreamed of in the past, found itself awash in environmental squaller. our cars were comfortable, but our children couldn't play outside because of the smog. our clothes were clean, but our bays were choked with sewage and
our lakes were slowly dying. a wave of horror swept the nation as we began to realize what we had done to the natural systems that supported all life, the environmental movement was born. governments at all levels responded with programs aimed at controlling pollution. but by 1970, it had become obvious that further progress would require a strong national effort. as a result, on december 2nd, 1970, president richard nixon consolidated 15 programs to form the united states environmental protection agency. not only did the new epa inherit responsibilities from its parent programs, but it had a raft of new ones. the package of the clean air act
in 1970 meant that epa's management had to simultaneously organize dozens of different staffs and laboratories to develop the national air quality standards required by the act. while at the same time showing the american people that something was being done to stop air pollution. epa went to court, factories were shut down, the message got through, gross pollution would no longer be a part of business as usual in the united states. the clean water act, passed in 1972, also required enormous and unprecedented efforts on the part of the new agency. 60 million people were on sewage systems discharging 2 million tons a year of raw waste into surface waters t. new law mandated a system of universal sewage treatment and gave epa the job of bringing it about. a job that meant running one of the largest public works
programs in the nation's history. these huge programs were hardly under way when congress gave epa new ones. an expanded pesticide program to examine and register new pest killers, to ensure that these chemicals do not menace human health or the survival of natural systems, a program to control toxic chemicals used in industry and the home. a program to set standards for the nation's drinking water. a program to control the disposal of solid waste including hazardous waste. a program to clean up the hazardous waste dumps that our legacy from the past. a program to control various sources of radioactivity and a group of other responsibilities that reflect our concern with
the character of the american land including the requirement for environmental impact statements, the establishment of marine sanctuaries and the protection of wetlands. armed with these authorities, epa has demonstrated over the last 15 years, that the ideals of earth day 1970 could be foraged into effective instruments of policy. as a result the kind of problems that led to the formation of the new agency, killing smog and burning rivers, are largely under control. between 1970 and 1981, although we added 30 million people to our population we reduced particulate emissions by 53% and carbon monoxide by 20%.
led levels declined 64% nationally, as the new anti-pollution devices required mo mo torists to stop using led gas. organic waste has been reduced by 38%. when controls are in place, discharges of toxic pollutants will have been reduced by 96% from 1972 levels. a number of widely used chemicals with unacceptable toxicities have been successfully banned. we have set up a regulatory system to track hazardous wastes from their point of origin to their point of disposal, to prevent any disasters from happening to our children. the superfund program has located the most important
abandoned waste sites and has moved to protect the citizens. all of this has been accomplished through the skill and dedication of epa's people. some 13,000 of them. they are organized into four program offices that administer the major regulatory laws. air and radiation, water, solid waste and emergency response, and pesticides and toxic substances. the agency is directed by an administer with a assistant administers in charge of each program office. the administer, deputy administer, and assistant administers are appointed by the president and confirmed by the senate. in addition, there are assistant administers with appropriate staffs for research and development, enforcement and compliance monitoring, administration, policy planning
and evaluation, and external affairs. a general counsel and an inspector general's office round out the basic organization. epa is a largely decentralized operation because environmental protection under our present laws requires that a major part of the job be done by the states. epa staff has to work closely with state environmental protection organizations to get the job done. there are 10 regional headquarters housing staff responsible for the major regulatory programs in boston, new york city, philadelphia, atlanta, chicago, dallas, kansas city, denver, san francisco, and seattle. the scientific work of epa is also decentralized and takes place in laboratories located
cross the country. air pollution work takes place in north carolina, toxicology in cincinnati, ground water research in oklahoma, pesticide biology in florida, and ecosystems research in oregon. this scientific effort is essential to meeting the challenges that still lie ahead. we need to know a lot more about how toxic substances behave in the environment and how it affects human health and the environment. this knowledge would help us control the risks without satisfying the benefits of the technologies that produce them. we need more information on long-range transport of pollutants through the air, acid rain is an example of this kind of transport. we also must do better at tracking the flow of pollutants through the environment.
much of our pollution control a apparatus was designed with one medium in mind. but pollutants can crossover between media and produce risks in their new state as well. we clean the water but produce millions of tons of sewage sludge a year. we could incinerate the sludge, but at what cost to the purity of the air. new and creative technologies are needed and epa has been a pioneer in developing these. combustion is one example. another is the blue goose, a block-long mobile insen ray tor, a product of the research facility in new jersey. it uses intense heat to eliminate much of the toxicity of hazardous waste.
epa has also helped to develop new technology and new ways of preventing the contamination of ground water. the work of the people of epa and their colleagues in environmental protection has been rewarded by the marked response of the natural environment. there is fishing and water recreation again on many major rivers and bays in places that many people thought were dead forever. we've improved water quality on 47,000 miles of streams since 1972. lake eerie did not die. over 22,000 acres of the new jersey shore have been reopened for shellfishing. there are fish in the trinity river at dallas, a stretch once written off as a permanent sewer. the most symbolic achievement of all has been the return of the bald eagle.
endangered populations have come back more quickly than expected. scientific evidence shows that the eagles are flying again, largely because of the ban on ddt. new problems have taken the place of the old ones however, and each program at epa confronts a fresh set of tasks. the air program is developing a strategy to deal with noncompliance with the ozone health standard, a problem in several major urban areas. it's shifting its attention to inhaleable particulates. and to dealing with changing energy sources such as wood-burning furnaces. the control of toxic substances in the air remains a problem as does developing a workable solution to the damage done by acid rain. the water program has completed its monumental task of issuing
guidelines, rules about what substances can be allowed to flow. emphasis at epa has turned to ensuring that the plants are run properly. new emphasis is also being placed on protection of the nation's ground water resources and on ensuring that all americans will believe to drink pure water into the indefinite future. finally, we are starting to realize that the goals of the clean water act will not be fully met unless we deal with polluting draining from our farms and cities. this nonpoint source pollution is responsible for half the water quality problem in some areas. the water office is working with landowners and other government
agencies to handle this problem. the solid waste programs are relatively new. the problems are old and will take a long time to solve. six billion tons of solid and hazardous waste are produced in the united states each year and deciding what to do with this mass or better yet, how to reduce it, will not be easy. we have made a good start. regulations governing the treatment, storage and disposal of hazardous waste are now in place. we have also moved forward against the problems arising from inactive sites under our superfund authority. epa and the states have almost completed the inventory of potentially hazardous sites. the process of determining what to do at particular sites and who should do it, is under way at many of them. the effort to control the
harmful affects of the toxic chemicals used by our technological society is one of the most difficult tasks ever devised. there are over of pesticides used each year. it is the job of the office of pesticides and toxic substances to determine which chemical uses are unacceptably risky and to control them. its mission is the stuff of headlines, when the names of obscure or everyday chemicals identified as risks burst into the public consciousness. dioxin, pcbs. they concentrate on speeding registration of pesticides and stopping their misuse. checking for toxicity, thousands of new chemicals developed each year, and continuing the control of widely used chemicals that
may cause serious disease. asbestos and pcb are the most familiar of these. all these efforts are connected. the environmental protection agency was borne out of the idea that nature is a seamless web of life. a poet said you cannot touch a flower without troubling of a star. we have to protect the whole environment. we are not in business to move pollution around from one place to another. we have to realize that pollution control itself generates some risk. and that the art is in deciding as free and responsible people what risks we are willing to live with and what we are willing to spend to reduce them. we have come a long way in just 15 years. the american people have risen to the challenge of living more gently in the natural world.
with their continuing support, we in the environmental protection agency can move on to protect our mission in its deepest sense, which is to shape the nation and the planet we intend to leave to our children. all week, we're featuring american history tv programs as a preview of what is available every weekend on cspan3. lectures in history, the real america, civil war, oral histories, presidency, and our nation's history. enjoy american history tv now and every weekend on cspan3. week nights this month, we're featuring american history tv programs as a preview of what's available every weekend on cspan3.
tonight, a look at world war ii. we begin with high schoolteacher karen cabana on food rationing during the war and innovations that led to modern day processed food. she then discussed wartime policies dealing with farm labor shortages and food rationing on the home front. watch american history tv starting at 8:00 p.m. eastern on cspan3. saturday at 10:00 p.m. on reel america, the 1970 film "communists on campus." >> yes, they are on campus. and yet our nation seems unbelieving, even unconcerned. >> sunday morning at 10:00 a.m. eastern on oral histories, woodstock cocreator artie corn
if he would details how the festival came together. >> how many do you think would come? i said there'd have to be 100,000. my wife said, there will be more than 300,000, just like that. i swear to got i looked off that terrace and i actually saw that field. i was looking at a dream that came true. >> at 6:00, virginia museum of history and culture curator karen sherry on their exhibit of 400 years of african-american history. >> they were not content with their lot. they wanted to resist their enslavement and they tried to run away. unfortunately they were not successful. they were captured and as punishment for their attempt to escape, robert carter got permission from the court in