Modern environmental policy in the United States began in the 1960s. Around this time, the environmental movement started to put pressure on the federal government to actively protect the country’s resources and preserve the world’s ecosystems.
The National Environmental Policy Act
After an oil well exploded off the California coast in 1969, Congress passed the National Environmental Policy Act, a very important law in the history of environmental policy. The law required all federal agencies to conduct an environmental impact statement before taking any action that could affect the environment. The act also created the Council on Environmental Quality and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Other Key Environmental Laws
Since the National Environmental Policy Act, Congress has passed other laws regulating pollution and cleaning up the environment, as explained in the table on the next page.
|Clean Air Act Amendments||1970||Restricted air pollution and authorized the EPA to enforce air quality standards|
|Clean Water Act||1972||Set goal of cleaning up waters by 1983|
|Federal Environmental Pesticide Act||1972||Banned the use of pesticides that are harmful to humans, animals, and crops|
|Clean Water Act||1974||Set federal standards for drinking water|
|Resource Conservation and Recovery Act||1976||Encouraged resource conservation and authorized federal control of hazardous waste|
|Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act||1980||Established a “superfund” for cleaning up toxic waste|
|Clean Air Act Amendments||1990||Required reformulated gasoline to be used in large cities and reduced some gases|
|Food Quality and Protection Act||1996||Authorized the federal government to regulate the use of pesticides in food production|
|Chemical Safety Information, Site Security, and Fuels Regulatory Relief Act||1999||Regulated security and risk management plans at chemical and fuel plants|
|The Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act||2002||Provided funds to clean up brownfields (environmentally damaged urban areas)|