The Environmental Protection Agency: Definition & Responsibilities

Instructor: LeRon Haire
During this lesson, we'll discuss the duties and responsibilities of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. At the end of the lesson, readers will have an understanding of their purpose.

What is the Environmental Protection Agency

Have you ever taken the time to think about which person or organization is responsible for protecting our natural resources and addressing environmental issues? The answer may come as a surprise because it's not your local government. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is a federal government entity that was created with the ultimate goal of helping to preserve the environment and protect the health of humans. The EPA has several responsibilities it must address, which we'll discuss in the sections below:

Create and Enforce Rules and Regulations

If you were the owner of a company and you disliked some of the rules and regulations, you would (with the help of your administration) seek to develop or amend policies to best suit your organization. The EPA has the same responsibility, but it works on the behalf of the citizens of the United States. When Congress decides to create an environmental law, the EPA helps to create the regulation. This powerful entity also enforces policies, regulations, and procedures already in place. For instance, the EPA might fine or otherwise penalize an aerospace manufacturing company for releasing illegal levels of the extremely hazardous chemical hydrogen cyanide.

Research Environmental Issues

The EPA performs research on various environmental issues. The research helps EPA scientists find and develop remedies to issues that are detrimental to the environment. For example, water pollution is a topic of concern among citizens, scientists, and politicians. Before decisions can be made to correct environmental problems, the EPA has a responsibility to first research and analyze the situation to find the best solution. That's why researchers are continually testing lakes, rivers, and other bodies of water and designing plans to reduce pollution.

Educating the Public

As Uncle Ben famously stated in the comic series Spider-Man, 'With great power comes with great responsibility.' One of the big responsibilities of the EPA that often goes unnoticed is educating the general population about the environment. The EPA makes many efforts to educate citizens about various aspects of environmental health, such as the thinning ozone layer, global warming, and proper uses of energy. Just as a doctor may hold workshops to inform the public about general illnesses, the EPA helps to educate through commercials, seminars, and brochures.

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