EPA's First Administrator on the Establishment of EPA

by William D. Ruckelshaus
[EPA press release - December 16, 1970]

The Environmental Protection Agency became law only two weeks ago today, but several of the most important principles to which we will adhere are already evident.

EPA is an independent agency. It has no obligation to promote agriculture or commerce; only the critical obligation to protect and enhance the environment. It does not have a narrow charter to deal with only one aspect of a deteriorating environment; rather it has a broad responsibility for research, standard-setting, monitoring and enforcement with regard to five environmental hazards; air and water pollution, solid waste disposal, radiation, and pesticides. EPA represents a coordinated approach to each of these problems, guaranteeing that as we deal with one difficulty we do not aggravate others.

As we work toward pollution abatement, we shall also strive to provide information and leadership; to enhance the environmental awareness of all the people and all of the institutions of this society. A clean and healthy environment is up to all of us. So we shall be an advocate for the environment with individuals, with industry, and within government.

The job that must be done now to restore and preserve the quality of our air, water, and soil can only be accomplished if this new Federal agency works closely with industry and with other levels of government. The technology which has bulldozed its way across the environment must now be employed to remove impurities from the air, to restore vitality to our rivers and streams, to recycle the waste that is the ugly by-product of our prosperity. And municipal and state governments must do more than curb pollution where it occurs now; they must plan for healthy and balanced and pollution-free growth in the future.

To enable us to work closely with industry and all levels of government, I am announcing today the establishment of regional offices of the Environmental Protection Agency. Ten regional offices covering the entire nation will be set up to work with state and local officials and private organizations to insure maximum participation in environmental programs. These regional boundaries will conform to those already specified for five other major federal agencies. We anticipate that this regional system will be operational by next June. Until then, I have designated an interim EPA Regional Coordinator who will initiate a unified agency approach to local and environmental problems.

I expect to visit each of these regions during the months of January and February. On those trips I will be briefed by local EPA employees, meet state and local pollution control officials and interested members of the public, and talk with members of the press. I will not be going to declare policy. I am going to listen and learn to find out more about regional environmental problems and solutions.

Our hopes for this agency are high. We know all environmental problems will not be solved this year or next. But if we remain flexible in approach and firm in our commitment, we believe we will live up to the President's challenge that "the 1970s absolutely must be the years when America pays its debt to the past by reclaiming the purity of its air, its water, and its living environment."