From the beginning.
Steve Maley asks on RedState.com, “When did EPA jump the shark?’. His article begins:
Iron Eyes Cody cried at the sight of polluted waters and skies in a famous public service announcement, first aired in 1971. Old Iron Eyes may have been a faux-Indian, but his message resonated with people. The Crying Indian PSA was one of the most successful ever.
It resonated because it was true. In the early ’70s, the environment was a mess. Urban skies were noticeably tinged in sepia/grey. Rivers and streams were often clogged with discarded debris and fouled with chemical sludge.
April 1970 saw the first Earth Day. In December of the same year, the Environmental Protection Agency was born.
The Clean Air Act was passed in 1970, with the Clean Water Act to follow in 1972. 1973 brought the Endangered Species Act. [Note: see comments. The Fish & Wildlife Service & NOAA are the lead ESA agencies, with EPA in a support role. I stand corrected. Ed.]
Gradually, the environment improved. The bald eagle and the American alligator came back from the brink of extinction. Air quality improved, there was less litter, and the phosphate foam disappeared from streams.
And, rightly or wrongly, EPA got the credit.
Maley is a little too loose with the history for our liking.
EPA’s first major decision was the 1972 DDT ban. Tens of millions have since died. That was a pretty big f***-up.
The bald eagle came back because of hunting restrictions. The alligator was saved, ironically, by alligator farms. EPA was not involved with either “saving.”
Air quality had been steadily improving since the 1950s. If anything, litigation about EPA overregulation slowed the implementation of various Clean Air Act provisions.
The EPA does not enforce no-littering laws.
Finally, Congress writes the laws, not the EPA. What made those laws workable — even the over-regulation — was vast American wealth. But we can no longer afford over-regulation.
The EPA was President Nixon’s sop to the anti-war left. He consolidated the environmental functions of the executive branch into one agency. It was a bureaucratic reshuffling for political purposes.
Maley is correct in his general thesis that EPA has “jumped the shark,” but it’s important to get the small details right.