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50th anniversary of Earth Day a time to remember how far environmental protection has advanced

April 22, 2020

By Andrew Keese, Media Relations

When Rachel Carson penned her classic exposé, Silent Spring, in 1962, she chronicled numerous environmental calamities that people had to endure at the time, such as frequent fish kills.

It’s fair to say that Carson’s book helped to awake an American consciousness that something needed to be done, that economic growth did not necessarily need to mean environmental destruction.

By 1970, the first Earth Day was celebrated by people throughout the country, who took it upon themselves to take positive personal actions for the sake of the environment, including President Richard Nixon, who helped plant a tree on the grounds of the White House. By 1973, Congress and Nixon were responsible for creating the EPA, which created a framework to protect the health of the public and the nation’s natural resources.

The responsibilities granted to the EPA were shared with the states and ultimately gave rise to state environmental agencies, including what would eventually become the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

Thanks to the EPA and TCEQ, most of us likely take many things for granted in our daily lives, such as the quality of the cup of water we drink or the stream we may be dipping our toes into on a typical hot summer day in Texas.

Yet, it is never enough to rest on one’s laurels. TCEQ constantly strives to improve how well it serves Texans, but, thankfully, gone are the days of rivers being polluted to the point of catching on fire or lead spewing from tailpipes.

While the agency often does high-profile work, such as responding to violations of environmental laws and regulations Adobe Acrobat PDF Document and environmental emergencies (such as Hurricane Harvey), much of the day-to-day work of TCEQ goes unnoticed, which is a testament to the hard work of the agency’s nearly 2,800 employees.

TCEQ has regulatory oversight of more than 700,000 entities in the state, including more than 7,000 public water systems, 3,165 industrial and municipal wastewater facilities, 4,000 dams, about 200 active landfills, numerous chemical production facilities, petroleum storage tanks, and much more.

Before every legislative session, TCEQ provides an accounting of its actions via its Biennial Report (including highlights over the previous two years). The agency also provides quarterly and annual performance measure reports.

TCEQ is an open book Adobe Acrobat PDF Document and makes the information it gathers available to the public via numerous databases.

Take a virtual stroll through TCEQ’s website to see how we serve Texas, or take some personal action on this 50th anniversary of Earth Day yourself to celebrate the environment.

Better yet, be inspired every day to do your part to help the environment and our communities. Check on the resources on the Take Care of Texas website for more.