The EPA is one of many independent agencies of the executive branch of the U.S. government. It derives its authority to carry out pollution-control
A worker is undergoing a decontamination process. (U.S. EPA. Reproduced by permission.)
programs through statutes passed by Congress. Although there have been several unsuccessful efforts over the years, especially during the late 1980s and early 1990s, to make the EPA a cabinet-level department, it remains an independent agency. EPA's administrator is appointed by the president, but must be confirmed by the Senate. Although not a member of the cabinet, the administrator is directly responsible to the president. The EPA has a number of assistant administrators who oversee offices with responsibility for EPA's primary programs, including air and radiation; enforcement and compliance assurance; international affairs; prevention, pesticides, and toxic substances; research and development; solid waste and emergency response; and water.
In addition, the EPA has ten regional offices throughout the United States. Each of these is responsible for working with the states in its region to implement and enforce EPA's regulations. Within these various offices and regional centers, the EPA carries out wide-ranging duties related to environmental protection, including:
• Researching the causes and effects of specific environmental problems
• Monitoring environmental conditions
• Determining how to best regulate activities causing environmental harm
• Setting specific standards for particular pollutants of concern
• Administering environmental permitting programs
• Providing financial and technical assistance to states
• Coordinating and supporting research activities of states and other private and public organizations
• Providing oversight of states that have assumed responsibility for federal environmental program
• Enforcing environmental laws
The EPA receives its funding through congressional appropriation. In 1970 EPA's annual budget was slightly over $1 billion. In 2002 its annual budget was in excess of $7.3 billion. EPA's workforce has grown from approximately 4,000 employees in 1970 to more than 17,000 employees in 2002.
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