Photo by Sun StarToday, environmentalists are celebrating the 40th anniversary of the founding of the United States Environmental Protection Agency, but all citizens should take a moment to appreciate the breadth of this federal agency’s achievements over such a short span of time.

EPA has protected — and many times brought back from the brink — the air that we breathe, the water we drink, and the ecosystem that keeps us and our animal friends alive.

President Nixon created the agency that would ban DDT, phase out leaded gasoline, halt the use of cancer-causing PCBs, and launch the Brownfields Program to clean up abandoned, contaminated sites, returning them to productive community use. It curbed Acid Rain and  — under George W. Bush — established new regulations requiring truck diesel engines and fuel to be 90 percent cleaner.

“Over its 40-year history, the EPA has evolved into the world’s preeminent environmental regulatory agency through a balanced, three-pronged strategy, combining excellent science, regulatory enforcement, and engagement of all stakeholders in developing new solutions to environmental problems,” said Walter Isaacson of the Aspen Institute.

President Johnson declared that, “Either we become a nation wearing gas masks, or we clean up the air.” Watch this and other highlights of the US environmental movement in this excellent short video montage of news headlines of the last 40 years.

Congratulations to the EPA.

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