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Council on Environmental Quality Message to the Congress Transmitting a Report.

February 19, 1980

To the Congress of the United States:

I am pleased to transmit to the Congress the Tenth Annual Environmental Quality Report of the Council on Environmental Quality. This report reflects the solid achievement of a decade of intensive effort by the American people and their government to improve the quality of the environment.

Of all the social, political, and economic changes of the past decade, perhaps none is more important to the future of our planet and the survival of our children than the change that has taken place in the way we look at our world and its resources. In the past 10 years, we have come to understand that our own wellbeing and the health, the safety—indeed the existence—of future generations depend on how we treat our world today. We know now that our planet is both fragile and finite, and that the decisions we make today will spell the difference between a polluted, unproductive and eventually uninhabitable world and a world that can sustain itself and the creatures that live on it indefinitely.

This change in our collective consciousness was not only remarkably swift, but also remarkably broad. People around the world simultaneously began to realize the dangers of pollution and the hazards of abusing and depleting the earth's resources and to demand effective action to protect the environment.

In the United States, a decade of environmental progress began with the signing on January 1, 1970 of the National Environmental Policy Act—the Nation's charter for protecting and improving the environment. The first Earth Day, in April 1970, showed unmistakably the Nation's new environmental awareness. Millions of people across the country participated in teach-ins, clean-ups, and many other actions to demonstrate their environmental concern and to gain a greater appreciation of ecology. The active citizen involvement in environmental .affairs spurred by Earth Day has been the major force behind the accomplishments of the past 10 years. Public support for an improved, healthy environment remains strong as we enter the 1980's.

The environmental record of the Congress and the Executive Branch during these 10 years has been exceptional. Congress has passed more than two dozen pieces of landmark legislation designed to preserve or enhance environmental quality-an unprecedented record of accomplishment in just one decade. Several of these laws were measures I proposed and strongly supported. I have personally had the pleasure of signing into law the 1977 amendments to the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act, the 1977 Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act, the 1977 Mine Safety and Health Act, the 1977 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Act, the 1978 National Energy Act, with its many features emphasizing energy conservation, the 1978 Environmental Pesticide Control Act, the 1978 Quiet Communities Act, the 1978 National Parks and Recreation Act, and the reauthorization of such essential laws as the Endangered Species Act. I have also had the satisfaction of issuing two broad Environmental Messages which initiated more than 100 legislative proposals, Executive Orders and directives, and policy reforms.

The Administration and the Congress have not yet accomplished all of the environmental goals that I have set, but we have done a great deal in three years and will continue our efforts. The actions my Administration has taken to protect the environment here and abroad, and the successes we have had, are among the most gratifying achievements of my Presidency.

The sustained environmental improvement effort of the past 10 years has made significant inroads on the problems identified at the start of the decade. Most major industrial facilities have met initial air and water pollution control requirements. Automobiles are now equipped with pollution control devices. The environmental achievements of state and local governments and of many other nations and international organizations are impressive.

The fact that our Nation has accomplished much in so short a time does not mean that we can relax our vigilance. Many serious environmental problems remain unsolved. One of the most troublesome examples during the past year was the seepage of toxic chemicals from an abandoned waste dump at Love Canal in Niagara Falls, New York, creating a public health problem of major proportions. Incidents like Love Canal make painfully clear the continued need for environmental protection programs. The past year has also reminded us again of the environmental dangers of complicated technologies that we do not fully understand or control, and of the need to manage the earth's finite resources, such as energy and food, in better ways. In the years ahead, solving environmental problems does not promise to become easier.

We are, however, better equipped to deal with the problems of the future than we were in 1970. This February marks the tenth anniversary of the Council on Environmental Quality, which was placed in the President's own office to analyze and coordinate federal environmental policy and advise the President on environmental matters. Unlike a decade ago, we now have strong institutions like the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to carry out environmental protection activities and to develop and implement sound policies. In addition, established government agencies like the Departments of the Interior and Agriculture and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have significantly redirected their missions. We are continually upgrading our environmental research and information activities to improve our current efforts and to meet future problems. In sum, the basic institutions for improving the quality of our environment are now firmly in place.

The past decade has been a remarkable beginning. I look forward to cooperating with the Congress and with all nations in our efforts to make this earth a better place to live. Let us move confidently into a second decade of environmental progress.


The White House,

February 19, 1980.

Note: The report is entitled "Environmental Quality—1979: The Tenth Annual Report of the Council on Environmental Quality" (Government Printing Office, 816 pages).

Jimmy Carter, Council on Environmental Quality Message to the Congress Transmitting a Report. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/250215

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