EPA History

The Origins of EPA

Do you know your EPA history?
We celebrate EPA's "birthday" every December 2. What actually happened on December 2, 1970?


B is the correct answer.

Administrator Ruckelshaus was confirmed by the Senate on December 2, 1970, which is the traditional date we use as the birth of the agency. 

Five months earlier, in July 1970, President Nixon had signed Reorganization Plan No. 3 calling for the establishment of EPA in July 1970.

Two days after his confirmation, on December 4, Ruckelshaus took the oath of office and the initial organization of the agency was drawn up in EPA Order 1110.2.


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The United States Environmental Protection Agency was born on December 2, 1970. The documents below shed some light on its birth and early years. Note that these documents are now in EPA's archive. To find one, click on the Search EPA Archive button and copy the name of the document into the search box on the archive home page. To ensure the best search results, be sure to put quotes around the name of the document.

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  • Article "Origins of the EPA" in the Spring 1992 issue of The Guardian -- provides background on conservation, ecology and early environmental movements, the first Earth Day, and the establishment of EPA.

  • President's Advisory Council on Executive Organization ("Ash Council") memo (April 1970) advising President Nixon to form EPA

  • Reorganization Plan No. 3 of 1970 (July 9, 1970) - message from President Nixon to Congress about reorganization plans to establish EPA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • EPA Order 1110.2 (December 4, 1970) - initial organization of EPA

  • Article "The Birth of EPA" in the November 1985 issue of EPA Journal

  • December 1970 press release "First Administrator Ruckelshaus on the establishment of EPA"

  • Document: Duties Transferred to EPA from Other Agencies

  • Document: Origin of the EPA Seal

  • Article "EPA's Formative Years, 1970-1973" in the September 1993 issue of The Guardian (EPA publications number 202-K-93-002) -- provides details on
    • the early years of EPA, including functions transferred from other agencies;
    • EPA's early organization; EPA's enforcement strategy;
    • early air pollution control efforts;
    • the banning of DDT; and
    • the leadership of EPA Administrators William D. Ruckelshaus and Russell E. Train.
  • Article "EPA History (1970-1985)" prepared in November 1985 by the EPA Office of Public Awareness on the occasion of EPA's 15th anniversary