The environmental policy of the United States focuses on protecting the natural environment for future generations. Public policy related to the environment reflects a general realization that government must take the lead in managing and protecting the finite resources that are critical for society's future, including air, water, land, minerals and wildlife. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is the federal agency responsible for creating policy and enforcing regulations that protect human health and the environment. The goal of EPA policy is to clean up and protect the environment while balancing the demands of commerce and individual liberty. The EPA was formed in 1970 by President Richard Nixon in response to the burgeoning environmental movement of the 1960s. Many of the Agency's historical initiatives centered on air pollution reduction and the cleanup and disposal of hazardous waste.
These are still critical issues, but the Agency has expanded its focus to include green living, promotion of healthy living and workplace environments, and emergency response and preparedness. The EPA is not a Cabinet-level department, but it is headed by an administrator who is appointed by the president and normally given Cabinet rank. Environmental policy does not fall completely under the control of the EPA. For example, the Endangered Species Act is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers oversees the maintenance of wetland areas. The EPA works in partnership with a variety of federal, state and local agencies. Recent scientific investigation into global warming by the EPA has led to modifications to U.S. energy policy, though action in this area has been slowed by pressure from business and political conservatives.
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The Agency promotes new technologies that achieve greater energy efficiency and a reduction in greenhouse gases and supports international partnerships to address the global impact of climate change. Policies that protect U.S. natural resources fall under the jurisdiction of a variety of U.S. government agencies. The United States Department of the Interior is a Cabinet-level agency that was created by Congress in 1849 to manage the nation's land, water, wildlife and energy resources. The agency is also responsible for Native American policy. The Department manages about 20 percent of land in the United States. The National Park System (NPS) is managed by the National Park Service, another branch of the Department of the Interior. Policies relating to national parks may be initiated by Congress, the president or the Department of the Interior. The NPS is often affected by regulations issued by the EPA.
The Department of the Interior also manages dams and reservoirs through its Bureau of Reclamation and wildlife refuges through its Fish and Wildlife Service. Protection of the nation's forests falls under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Forest Service. This agency, which is part of the Department of Agriculture, promotes sustainable forest management both nationally and internationally. The agency works actively to reduce illegal logging and deforestation.
Environmental Protection and EPA Careers
The EPA protects human health and the environment by developing air and water quality standards, promoting green living, reducing the risks from pesticides and toxic chemicals, and regulating the disposal of non-hazardous and hazardous waste. The EPA consistently ranks as one of the top federal employers and offers a variety of rewarding MPA careers. In addition to the EPA, the Department of the Interior is a good source for careers related to the maintenance and protection of natural resources.
This executive position, which is located at the EPA in Washington, D.C., involves leadership of several EPA programs and funds, including the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System program and the WaterSense program. The director of OWM is responsible for two divisions and a staff that exceeds 100 full-time employees. The director also manages State and Tribal Assistance Grant funds that exceed $2 billion as well as a $12 million contracts budget. The position includes establishment and maintenance of close working relationships with state agencies and professional organizations. The director must become a recognized authority who represents the EPA on national and international water panels and committees.
The director of program implementation and Information Division is a position located in the EPA's Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery. Principal responsibilities include assisting in the formation of a national waste management program and implementation of a program to control hazardous wastes. The director attends congressional hearings to explain or defend Division programs and policy and represents the EPA at national and international meetings related to waste management and hazardous wastes. The director maintains communication with industry and public interest groups in order to facilitate communication. The position also requires management of assigned programs, staff and other resources.
The assistant director for fisheries and habitat conservation serves is an advisor to the director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The assistant director is responsible for recommending national policy for fish and wildlife resource management and participating in budgeting at the national level. The position also requires the establishment of working relationships with national and international fish and wildlife organizations and supervising Fisheries and Habitat Conservation staff in the Washington, D.C. office. An MPA is an asset for this position, but applicants must have an undergraduate background in biological sciences, agriculture, chemistry or a related discipline.