Reading the introductory remarks of Carol Browner at the dedication ceremony of the EPA building in Washington DC that took place on July 17, one could easily believe the agency is only twenty years old, and a product of the Clinton Administration.

“Twenty years ago we embarked on a journey that has led to unprecedented success in cleaning our air and water and protecting our communities.”

The EPA office building’s new name, the William Jefferson Clinton Federal Building, is sure only to continue public confusion.

For those people looking for clarity on the EPA’s history, the agency was started by President Nixon. On July 9, 1970 he issued a Special Message to Congress, and the Reorganization Plan No. 3, 1970, which called for an Environmental Protection Agency.

The first day of operation for the EPA was December 2, 1970.

Speaking on December 4th at the swearing in ceremony of the EPA’s first administrator, William Ruckelshaus, President Nixon said of him,

“He is a fair crusader, a crusader for clean air, for clean water, and a better environment for all Americans.

He will have the support, completely, of the White House, of the President, and of this administration in his efforts to prove the programs which will bring clean air, clean water, and a better environment for all Americans.”

President Nixon knew that the benefits of a clean environment would be shared by all Americans, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican. While tensions over the scope and role of the EPA have divided along partisan lines, the renaming the EPA building, without so much as acknowledging its founding by President Nixon twenty three years before President Clinton came into office, will only strengthen that divide. This is not meant to condemn President Clinton’s strong environmental achievements, but to say that the history of the EPA and the benefits shared by all Americans could have been demonstrated better by telling the forty three year history of the EPA, instead of just the last twenty.