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BEFORE THE Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was created in 1970, earlier legislation had been enacted to protect the environment. However, these laws were weak, and poorly managed and enforced.

The first environmental law in the United States was called the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 or the Refuse Act. This law was primarily designed to bar companies from discharging garbage into navigable waterways. Clearly, this first law was aimed at protecting commerce not the environment. However, two later Supreme Court decisions mandated that dumping industrial waste, whether or not it interfered with commerce, was still a violation of the law.

In the 20th century, the first environmental law was the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act passed in 1947 requiring companies to register pesticides used ...

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