Ever since the beginning of civilization, pollution was a problem. This was an unknown problem to due past ignorance. The Industrial Revolution yielded unprecedented rates of production and far more pollution. Science became more and more important in daily lives. The discipline of medicine professionalized and industrial know-how was used for the benefit of the human environment.
The first city to have a modern sewage system was Paris, France. Prior to the sewage system people would dump their waste in the Seine River and cholera outbreaks were common. Scientists and doctors found out that cholera was caused by bacteria that lived in human excrement. The Parisian sewer system diverted human was away from drinking sources. For the first time in European history, large populations were free from chronic outbreaks of cholera.
Many industrialized nations followed Paris' example and built their own sewer systems in the 19th century as well. This event in history has serious ramifications. This means that part of what causes death and illness is environmental. Everything in the environment is interconnected and certain legislation can ensure the public health and safety of the entire community as well as the life on which human civilization depends.
The first environmental regulations were health codes. However, the idea that sickness is caused by bacteria in the environment was not entirely served by health codes. Thus, environmental regulations were first legislated during the Progressive Era, in the United States. At this point, the Industrial Revolution was well underway and people could not go back to the lifestyle that characterized the previous epoch. Policymakers still focused on environmental factors that contributed to the benefit of human health.
Theodore Roosevelt passed the first conservation laws. His administration established the Federal parks system that so many Americans enjoy. However, there was not enough information in regards to the ramifications of industrial air, water, and ground pollution.
Shortly after World War II, studies revealed that many chronic illnesses were caused by industrial pollution. By the 1970s modern industry had taken its toll on the environment. Activists fought hard for legislation that would mitigate the pollution without destroying the lifestyle to which they are accustomed. It is for this reason that environmental laws are mostly created to reduce pollution instead of eliminate it all-together.
State and Local Regulations
State governments make the bulk of environmental regulations in lower level governments. Local governments contribute to environmental well-being through their local zoning regulations. Zoning is important; no one wants to live near iron smelting facility that belches black clouds of poisonous gas. State governments are responsible for enforcing federal environmental regulations as well as their own.
Each state his its own version of the EPA. States are also free to add their own tougher regulations to curb their own pollution problem. The State of California is a textbook example of a state with tougher environmental restrictions on businesses because it's largest metropolitan areas have reputation for above average air pollution problems.
In addition to Hollywood, Los Angeles, California is well known for its smog problem. From only eight miles away, the famous Hollywood sign is rendered illegible by a thick haze of translucent gas. The gas is mainly produced by automobiles.
California's major cities are more dependent on automobile transportation than most East coast cities. Therefore, smog is a bigger problem there. Instead of completely changing the cities' infrastructures and the overall navigability of California's streets. The State of California adopted provisions that make automobile manufacturers build cars that burn gasoline cleaner than the federal requirement.
California can do this because its economy is so large. Auto-manufacturers are not top dogs until they are able to sell cars in the United States. California's economy is about a fifth of the US economy so it would be illogical not to comply with California's own environmental legislation. State governments have the power to address environmental issues of a local character.
Some State EPAs deal with ecological problems like foreign species of animals or plant life that threaten the ecological balance of the environment. Other states put more emphasis on regulating agricultural pollutants. Therefore, states have the freedom to add onto federal regulations as they see fit.