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Environmental Policy 1990-94

Updated: Oct 18, 2022

This month we are covering the domestic environmental policies from 1990-1994. To be honest, this is a quiet few years in terms of environmental policy at the federal level. However, we do see a continuation of the international environmental collaboration established by the Montreal Protocol in 1987 through the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. The summit, formally known as the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, included 179 countries that came together “… to produce a broad agenda and a new blueprint for international action on environmental and development issues that would help guide international cooperation and development policy in the twenty-first century.” (Nations).

The summit attracted massive international media attention, with “thousands of reporters, photojournalists and television camera crews” and according to reporting by the New York Times, there were about 8,000 journalists on site (Dalby). One of the primary conclusions of the Earth Summit was that “sustainable development was an attainable goal for all the people of the world” and that “…integrating and balancing economic, social and environmental concerns in meeting our needs is vital for sustaining human life on the planet,” (Nations). This newfound focus on sustainable development can be seen in the federal policies passed between 1990-1994 and beyond.

1990- The Pollution Prevention Act (PPA)

Signed into law by President George Bush, the Pollution Prevention Act (PPA) was designed to “...focus industry, government, and public attention on reducing the amount of pollution through cost-effective changes in production, operation, and raw materials use”(OP US EPA, Summary of the Pollution Prevention Act). The PPA is primarily concerned with pollution control through “source production” as a preventative measure against pollution that, “refers to practices that reduce hazardous substances from being released into the environment prior to recycling, treatment or disposal” (OP US EPA, Summary of the Pollution Prevention Act) rather than just focusing on waste management or pollution control.

1990- National Environmental Education Act (EE)

Under the directive of Congress, the EPA became the national leader in the creation, and support of, environmental education programs for students and teachers meant to “...encourage students to pursue careers related to the environment” (OA US EPA, Milestones in EPA and Environmental History). As of 2022, EE programs are focused on “programs that support environmental education, including professional development, youth and educator recognition, and grants” (OA US EPA, Environmental Education (EE)).

1994- Brownfields Program

Throughout the 1980s, citizen concern across the country turned to the health and economic impacts of environmental degradation. Particularly in cities and towns that were losing manufacturing industries, there was great concern over the economic viability of the polluted properties left behind, and the fact that, “property redevelopment is challenged by the presence or (potential presence) of environmental contamination” (OLEM US EPA, Brownfields and Land Revitalization Program History). Following collaboration with states like Minnesota and Illinois to create state level Voluntary Cleanup Programs (VCP), the EPA formally launched the Brownfield Program to, “clean up abandoned, contaminated sites and return them to productive community use” (OA US EPA, Milestones in EPA and Environmental History). Since the launch of the program in 1994, the EPA has cleaned up 450 contaminated sites and created 61,000 jobs through its Brownfield job training partnerships (OA US EPA, Milestones in EPA and Environmental History).

Check back in next month when we will be covering policy from 1995-2000!


Works cited:

Dalby, Simon. “Reading Rio, Writing the World: The New York Times and the ‘Earth Summit.’” Political Geography, vol. 15, no. 6–7, July 1996, pp. 593–613. (Crossref),

Nations, United. “United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 3-14 June 1992.” United Nations, United Nations, Accessed 29 July 2022.

US EPA, OA. Environmental Education (EE). 29 Nov. 2012,

---. Milestones in EPA and Environmental History. 20 May 2020,

US EPA, OLEM. Brownfields and Land Revitalization Program History. 30 Mar. 2020,

US EPA, OP. Summary of the Pollution Prevention Act. 22 Feb. 2013,

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