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Pacific Southwest, Region 9

Serving: Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Pacific Islands, Tribal Nations

Progress Report 2010

40-Year Environmental Timeline

1970: National Environmental Policy Act signed, Clean Air Act passed. First Earth Day, April 22. President Nixon signs Executive Order creating U.S. EPA, Dec. 2.
1971: Two Standard Oil tankers collide in heavy fog beneath Golden Gate Bridge, 2:00 a.m. January 19, spilling 840,000 gallons of oil, fouling Bay Area shorelines.
1972: Congress passes Clean Water Act. California legislature passes Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. California voters pass Coastal Conservation Initiative. EPA bans DDT.
1973: Congress, President Nixon approve Endangered Species Act. EPA begins enforcement action against eight ore smelters in Arizona and Nevada for excessive sulfur dioxide pollution.
1974: UC scientists Mario Molina and Sherwood Rowland publish study showing chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) used in spraycans, Styrofoam and refrigeration damage stratospheric ozone layer.
1975: To comply with Clean Air Act, auto makers put catalytic converters on all new 1975 model cars, which use unleaded gas only. Smog and lead levels start declining.
1976: Congress passes Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, regulating hazardous waste and phasing out PCBs. California legislature restricts new nuclear power plants.
1977: Congress and President Jimmy Carter pass Clean Air Act Amendments, strengthening air quality standards.
1978: Stringfellow Acid Pits hazardous waste dump in Riverside County, Calif. threaten to overflow. CFCs banned in spraycans. Toxic waste seeps into homes in Love Canal, NY.
1979: EPA Pacific Southwest Region awards more than $750 million in grants to local governments to build sewage treatment facilities.
1980: President Carter signs Superfund law, making polluters liable for toxic cleanups, just before President Ronald Reagan takes office.
1981: National Research Council reports acid rain in northeastern U.S., Canada making lakes too acidic for frogs, fish. Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown allows malathion spraying to combat medflies.
1982: Toxics found in Silicon Valley groundwater. Dioxin discovered in soil in Times Beach, Mo. Pesticide found in Hawaii’s milk. Selenium poisons wildlife at Kesterson refuge, Calif.
1983: EPA’s Superfund Program investigates groundwater contamination from aerospace industry in Southern California’s San Fernando and San Gabriel Valleys.
1984: Catastrophic leak at chemical plant in Bhopal, India kills 2,500 people. Congress strengthens 1976 law regulating hazardous waste, creating stricter standards for disposal sites.
1985: Scientists report hole in stratospheric ozone over Antarctica getting larger each Spring. Santa Cruz voters ban facilities for offshore oil, inspiring other coastal localities to do likewise.
1986: California voters approve Proposition 65, requiring disclosure of toxics. Congress passes Emergency Planning/ Right-to-Know Act. Los Angeles agrees to upgrade sewage treatment.
1987: U.S. and 23 nations sign Montreal Protocol to phase out chemicals that destroy stratospheric ozone layer. Southern California cities stop dumping sludge in Santa Monica Bay.
1988: Congress bans ocean dumping of sewage sludge and industrial wastes, after medical waste washes up on NJ beaches. Shell Oil refinery spills 365,000 gallons oil into Carquinez Strait.
1989: Exxon Valdez oil tanker runs aground in Alaska’s Prince William Sound, spilling 11 million gallons of oil, fouling hundreds of miles of shoreline, killing fish and wildlife.
1990: Congress and President George H.W. Bush approve Oil Pollution Act, Clean Air Act Amendments to reduce hazardous air pollutants and industrial emissions, require cleaner gasoline in smoggy areas.
1991: Train derailment near Dunsmuir, Calif., spills toxic fumigant metam sodium into Upper Sacramento River, wiping out all life in the river for more than 40 miles.
1992: EPA launches Energy Star labeling program (now at www.EnergyStar.gov ) to help consumers identify energy-efficient products.
1993: Heavy winter rain and snow ends six-year California drought. EPA sets salinity standard for Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, to protect salmon and other fish harmed by water diversions.
1994: President Clinton signs Environmental Justice Executive Order, requiring agencies to prevent disproportionate impacts in communities. EPA launches Brownfields Program.
1995: EPA launches market-based program to reduce sulfur dioxide pollution that causes acid rain. EPA requires municipal waste incinerators to reduce toxic emissions 90% from 1990 levels.
1996: Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments require water suppliers to inform customers about contaminants; Food Quality Protection Act tightens standards for agricultural pesticides.
1997: EPA announces tougher air quality standards for smog and particulates (dust and soot), to improve air quality for 125 million Americans over the next ten years.
1998: New national leak detection and prevention standards for underground fuel storage tanks take effect December 22, spurring replacement of leaky tanks.
1999: Visibility improved at Grand Canyon, thanks to EPA/federal plan requiring scrubbers to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions at coal-fired Navajo Generating Station.
2000: U.S. Army incinerates the last of 400,000 obsolete chemical weapons, destroying their extremely toxic nerve agent, under EPA oversight at Johnston Island in Central Pacific.
2001: Under agreement between EPA, Los Angeles, Indian tribes, and air district, Los Angeles begins irrigating dry Owens Valley lakebed to end nation’s worst particulate air pollution.
2002: EPA and its Mexican counterpart SEMARNAT launch Border 2012 Program to cooperate on clean air, water, wastewater, hazardous waste and emergency response in border area
2003: EPA, Los Angeles water board enforcement action requires three major oil companies to clean up Santa Monica’s groundwater, which had been polluted with gas additive MTBE.
2004: EPA launches West Coast Diesel Collaborative with 300 agencies, groups to reduce air pollution from diesel engines in Pacific Coast states, northern Mexico, British Columbia
2005: New national health standard for fine particulate pollution— PM2.5—takes effect. EPA Pacific Southwest Office begins helping China set up hazardous waste cleanup programs.
2006: Construction of cleanup facilities is complete at 1,000 Superfund hazardous waste sites across the nation, including half of the 125 sites in the Pacific Southwest.
2007: New wastewater treatment plant in Mexicali, funded by EPA and Mexico, removes raw sewage from New River, which flows across U.S.-Mexico Border.
2008: EPA and Navajo Nation launch five-year plan to address uranium contamination of land and water from more than 500 abandoned uranium mines on Navajo land.
2009: American Reinvestment and Recovery Act allocates $710 million in Pacific Southwest for clean air and clean water projects, plus speeding up hazardous waste cleanups.

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