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 in America, from negotiating the Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32), to launching the Green Chemistry Initiative. CalEPA has also established Environmental Justice programs, adopted a Tribal Policy, and expanded enforcement efforts. CalEPA was formally established on July 17, 1991 although its foundation 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.

Today’s CalEPA consists of the Air Resources Board (ARB), the Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR), the Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery, (CalRecycle), the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), and the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB).

  • ARB works to reduce air pollution and diesel exhaust so all Californians can breathe cleaner air and leads the nation in fighting climate change with integrated programs to cut greenhouse gases under AB 32.
  • DPR is accelerating a transition to safer and more sustainable pest management to achieve its mission of protecting human health and the environment by regulating pesticide sales and use and fostering reduced-risk pest management.
  • CalRecycle helps the state achieve the highest waste reduction, recycling and reuse goals in the nation through programs that improve economic vitality and environmental sustainability.
  • DTSC cleans up hazardous waste sites to put them back into productive use and reduce blight and contamination to the neighborhoods and surrounding environments.
  • OEHHA serves as the scientific foundation for CalEPA’s environmental regulations and provides valuable information to consumers, policy makers and manufacturers on the safety of chemicals in our environment.
  • SWRCB ensures that the quality of our water ways is safe and that we balance its use to meet the needs of all Californians.