The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is a U.S. government agency responsible for protecting human and environmental health. In 1970, Richard Nixon established the EPA by executive order in response to the rising environmental concerns of the 1950s and 1960s. The EPA oversees the manufacturing, processing, distribution and use of pollutants. They are also tasked with determining safe tolerance levels for chemicals and other pollutants in food, animal feed and water.
What Does the EPA Do?
Headquartered in Washington D.C., the EPA creates regulations to promote and enforce federal laws related to health and the environment, such as the Clean Air Act and the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The EPA may also amend regulations to better enforce federal laws. For instance, in 2019 the EPA is evaluating 40 substances already in scope of the TSCA to determine whether they should be considered high or low-priority. High-priority substances will be submitted for further risk evaluation, which could change chemical restrictions and requirements for companies in the future.
The EPA also oversees several programs created to promote energy efficiency, environmental stewardship, sustainable growth, air and water quality, and pollution prevention. Companies can participate in these programs to demonstrate their commitment to corporate social responsibility to consumers. Programs include:
- The EPA Safer Choice program (label that indicates the chemically safest choices).
- The Energy Star program (label that indicates energy efficient appliances).
EPA Violation Penalties
The EPA has the authority to deliver the following penalties to organizations and individuals who violate their regulations:
- Civil penalties (fines designed to recover the financial benefit of noncompliance and to compensate for the violation).
- Injunctive relief (a required action to bring an entity into compliance with environmental laws).
- Supplemental Environmental Projects and mitigation (projects in addition to those required to bring an entity into compliance with environmental laws).
- Criminal penalties.