The Volokh Conspiracy

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Volokh Conspiracy

The Environmental Protection Agency Is Turning 50

A symposium looking back at the agency's history, and forward to its future.


On July 9, 1970, President Richard Nixon informed Congress of his plan to create a new federal agency tasked with protecting the nation's people and resources from pollution and environmental harm. Although there were a range of environmental programs and offices throughout the federal government, Nixon argued that a reorganization of federal efforts, concentrating them in a single agency, was necessary to "effectively ensure the protection, development and enhancement of the total environment itself."

The new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) opened its doors on December 2. The first EPA Administrator, William Ruckelshaus, immediately adopted an aggressive enforcement agenda, and the new agency quickly made its presence felt. For the next fifty years, the EPA would be one of the most powerful and controversial federal regulatory agencies.

Last fall, the Coleman P. Burke Center for Environmental Law at the Case Western Reserve University School of Law hosted a day-long conference on the EPA's first 50 years. The papers from the conference have now been published in the Case Western Reserve Law Review, and are available online. The collected presenters and authors included the current EPA Administrator, Andrew Wheeler, and EPA veterans from each of the last four administrations.

Here is a listing of the papers: