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EPA at 50: EPA Reflects on 50 Years of Earth Day

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Ashley Murdie (

Environmental News


EPA at 50, Progress for a Stronger Future(Lenexa, Kan., April 16, 2020) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reflects on 50 years of Earth Day and the environmental progress America has made, including the Heartland.

In spring 1970, Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson created Earth Day to bring national attention to the environmental challenges of the time, prompting 22 million Americans to take part in demonstrations urging action for clean air, land and water.

“For 50 years, Earth Day has brought people together to take action to clean up our beaches, parks, rivers and communities,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “When Earth Day began in 1970, Americans faced a drastically different environment than we do today. I am proud of the work our nation has done, and continues to do, to be a leader in clean air and clean water progress.”

“This Earth Day, we celebrate the tremendous success we’ve had in our shared efforts to protect human health and the environment over the last 50 years,” said EPA Region 7 Administrator Jim Gulliford. “As we move forward with our response to the COVID-19 pandemic, EPA Region 7 is thankful for our federal, state, tribal and community partners across the Heartland who help provide cleaner air, land and water for generations to come.”

Over the last 50 years, all environmental indicators across the nation have improved and continue to improve. For example:

  • In 1970, over 40% of the nation’s drinking water systems failed to meet even the most basic health standards.
  • Today, over 92% of community water systems meet all health-based standards all the time.
  • America continues to be a leader in clean air progress by reducing the six main criteria air pollutants by 73%.
  • The nation has doubled to 86% the number of low-income communities achieving attainment with EPA’s National Ambient Air Quality Standards since 2008.
  • In the past three years alone, 38 areas have moved from nonattainment to attainment.
  • EPA’s successful Superfund and Brownfields programs are bringing opportunity back to communities.
  • Last year, EPA delisted more Superfund sites than any year since 2001.
Since the first Earth Day in 1970, EPA has played a key role in hosting, coordinating and participating in the annual event. As we continue to observe CDC guidance to stem the spread of COVID-19, and out of an abundance of caution, EPA will offer ways to participate in Earth Day activities and education online through EPA social media channels, including at-home activities for children.

To promote public recognition of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, we are also inviting everyone to participate by drawing pictures and making signs recognizing Earth Day to hang in the windows of their homes to celebrate with neighbors and their community. A printable sign is also available online. Those who wish to share pictures of their artwork are welcome to do so on social media using the hashtags #EarthDayAtHome, #EarthDay2020, and #EPAat50.

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