The History of the California Environmental Protection Agency

The California Environmental Protection Agency has led California in creating and implementing some of the most progressive environmental policies (PDF) in America, from negotiating the Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32), to launching the Green Chemistry Initiative, implementing Environmental Justice programs, adopting a Tribal Policy, expanding enforcement efforts, and implementing the nation’s first environment-based education curriculum.

CalEPA was formally established on July 17, 1991 although its foundation (PDF) was laid decades earlier through the hard work of multiple administrations.

In 1961, Governor Edmund G. Brown oversaw a comprehensive reorganization of the Executive branch, which established state agencies and placed most of the state’s environmental quality programs within the Resources Agency.

When Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr. took office in 1975, one of his first actions was to propose establishing a separate agency dedicated to the environment. While the plan was not adopted by the Legislature, Governor Brown was able to successfully establish a new Cabinet-level position – Secretary of Environmental Affairs – tasked with advising the Governor and broadening environmental protections.

While this Cabinet-level role continued under Governor George Deukmejian, it was not until 1991, when Governor Pete Wilson took office, that CalEPA as we now know it was established. See Archived Reports for more historical documents.


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Last updated: October 13, 2014
California Environmental Protection Agency,
General Public Contact, (916) 323-2514