opportunities to make a positive difference for all Americans, and can also set an example for other federal agencies that face similar challenges to take an integrated approach to public policy issues falling within their purview. These points are amplified in the text below, and Boxes 7-1 to 7-7 provide illustrative examples from the public and private sectors.
Despite substantial progress in achieving cleaner air, water, and land in the United States, the nation faces new and even more complex challenges. Environmental quality and natural resources are under great stress from a growing population, ever increasing consumption of energy and natural resources, technologic developments, urbanization, and land development. These pressures are occurring against the background of climate change and its probable disruptive effects on resource productivity, water systems, human health, and ultimately the quality of life and livelihoods on the planet. The scope and complexity of these challenges means that more traditional approaches to environmental protection are not likely to be effective. A selection of complex problems and future risks confronting the agency and the country includes the following:
- Approximately 127 million people lived in counties that exceeded at least one air-quality standard in 2008 (EPA 2010a). Ground-level ozone and particle pollution still exceed health protection levels, and recent scientific studies have established beyond doubt their adverse effects on human heart and respiratory functions (HEI 2010). EPA has a huge number of conventional and toxic pollutant standards to complete as well as its work to begin to control greenhouse gases from stationary sources such as utilities. Multiple pollutant and sectoral strategies and even emissions trading are options under consideration.
- Major nationally important water bodies fail to meet water-quality standards sufficient to protect human uses, such as fisheries and jobs, including the Chesapeake Bay, the Great Lakes, and the Gulf of Mexico. The northern Gulf of Mexico is the site of the second largest dead zone in the world, now measured as the size of New Jersey. The area lacking life-sustaining oxygen (hypoxia) caused by nutrient runoff from the Mississippi River watershed continues to grow. Similar dead zones occur in the Chesapeake Bay and in the coastal waters off the coast of Oregon (Walker 2006, EPA 2010b, NOAA 2010). The U.S. pollution-control system has so far failed to mobilize the resources and actions needed to restore these waters and the marine life and human livelihoods they support.
- Many areas in urban centers, particularly in highly industrialized zones, contain persistent sources of contamination due to past disposal prac-