The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA or sometimes USEPA) is an agency of the federal government of the United States charged with protecting human health and the environment, by writing and enforcing regulations based on laws passed by Congress.
The EPA was proposed by President Richard Nixon and began operation on December 3, 1970, after Nixon submitted a reorganization plan to Congress and it was ratified by committee hearings in the House and Senate. The agency is led by its Administrator, who is appointed by the president and approved by Congress. The current administrator is Lisa P. Jackson.
The EPA is not a Cabinet department, but the administrator is normally given cabinet rank. The agency has approximately 18,000 full-time employees.
The EPA employs 17,000 people in headquarters program offices, 10 regional offices, and 27 laboratories across the country. More than half of its staff are engineers, scientists, and environmental protection specialists; other groups include legal, public affairs, financial, and computer specialists.
The agency conducts environmental assessment, research, and education. It has the primary responsibility for setting and enforcing national standards under a variety of environmental laws, in consultation with state, tribal, and local governments. It delegates some permitting, monitoring, and enforcement responsibility to U.S. states and Native American tribes. EPA enforcement powers include fines, sanctions, and other measures.
The agency also works with industries and all levels of government in a wide variety of voluntary pollution prevention programs and energy conservation efforts.