EPA History: Earth Day
The First Earth Day in April 1970
It may be hard to imagine that before 1970, a factory could spew black clouds of toxic smoke into the air or dump tons of toxic waste into a nearby stream, and that was perfectly legal. They could not be taken to court to stop it.
How was that possible? Because there was no EPA, no Clean Air Act, no Clean Water Act. There were no legal or regulatory mechanisms to protect our environment.
In spring 1970, Senator Gaylord Nelson created Earth Day as a way to force this issue onto the national agenda. Twenty million Americans demonstrated in different U.S. cities, and it worked! In December 1970, Congress authorized the creation of a new federal agency to tackle environmental issues, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Note: The resources listed below are available for historical reference only. Page layout may differ for older documents and some links may be broken.
Articles and Press Releases
Earth Day '70: What It Meant
by Gaylord Nelson [April 1980]
Earth Day Recollections: What It Was Like When The Movement Took Off
by John C. Whitaker [July/Aug. 1988]
The Spirit of the First Earth Day
by Jack Lewis [January/February 1990]
EPA Registry to Record Trees Planted in Celebration of Earth Day
[February 5, 1990 press release]
Remarks by Agency Administrators
From Awareness to Action
by William D. Ruckelshaus [April 22, 1971]
Earth Week 1973
by William D. Ruckelshaus [April 8, 1973]
Train Stresses Long-Range Planning as the Environmental Movement Comes of Age
Russell E. Train [April 22, 1975]
Statement on Earth Day 1990
by William K. Reilly [April 20, 1990]
Browner Releases Data on U.S. Water Quality, Calls for New Clean Water Act
Carol M. Browner [April 20, 1994]
The Earth is in Your Hands
by Carol M. Browner [Winter 1995]
EPA to Expand Chemical Right-To-Know Program and Provide Public with Better Health Data
Carol M. Browner [April 21, 1998]
Earth Day 2000 Kick Off
Remarks by Carol M. Browner [April 4, 2000]
Further reading: Collected remarks by EPA Administrators