EPA Turns 40: The Top 10 Ways EPA Has Strengthened America (Slideshow)

The United States Environmental Protection Agency turns 40 years old today. Born out of an era where frustration with the government over the Vietnam War, Civil Rights and environmental degradation were widespread, particularly among a generation of politically active young people, the EPA was established to both address environmental degradation, but also as a political step to mollify a large segment of the population unafraid to take to the streets and voice their discontent.

Now vilified by many Republican lawmakers, the EPA was established under a Republican president, Richard M. Nixon, just seven months after the first Earth Day and eleven months after President Nixon signed the National Environmental Policy Act, kicking off what he called "the environmental decade."

In the months and years that followed, the U.S. climbed out of an entrenched system where concern for planet always came after concern for profit, to lead the world with the most aggressive environmental laws anywhere — and for the most part, the laws and regulations worked. But now, the EPA faces an entirely new set of challenges posed by climate change and the agency is now under attack by those who seek to diminish its authority to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses. But regardless of whether you think the EPA, should be in the business of addressing climate change (or even if you are a climate change skeptic altogether) it is important to recognize the agency's many great successes over the last 40 years.

Obviously, EPA's accomplishments are too numerous to list individually, but here we present the ten most important ways EPA has made America better, based on a report (pdf) published this week by the nonpartisan Aspen Institute.