George Bush photo

Remarks on Signing the Bill Amending the Clean Air Act

November 15, 1990

Thank you all very much. Thank you so much for being here. I would first like to welcome the Ambassador from Canada, our friend, Derek Burney, who represents, I think, by being here, his countrymen's concern for our common environment.

It is a pleasure to have several of our Cabinet here today: of course, Secretary Lujan here, Interior; and Jim Watkins; as well as Bill Reilly, the Administrator of EPA. Susan Engeleiter is here. Also, Madeleine, I want to welcome you -- Governor Kunin, the Governor of Vermont, is with us today who has a big stake in all of this, and welcome.

I also want to welcome the leaders from the Senate side: the majority leader, Senator Mitchell, who has always had a keen interest in this, and of course, Bob Dole, Republican leader -- both with us today. And of course, if I get singling out all the Members who are here of Congress, I'll be here all day. And I'm just glad you all are here. The Speaker and others, unfortunately, couldn't be here -- majority and minority leader. But we have many of the committee leaders that worked the hardest here. I'll get in trouble, but I see John Dingell, and I want to thank him and so many others. Please let's stop there. Let me just welcome the Members of Congress who have done so much on all of this.

Thanksgiving is still a week away, but I believe this really is a true red-letter day for all Americans. Today we add a long-awaited and long-needed chapter in our environmental history, and we begin a new era for clean air.

This last weekend, I spent some pleasant hours up at Camp David. Saturday and Sunday really were fantastic -- clear and crisp and beautiful, bright sunshine and those magnificent fall colors. And it was great to get out in the woods. But no American should have to drive out of town to breath clean air. Every city in America should have clean air. And with this legislation, I firmly believe we will.

I first made a commitment to comprehensive clean air legislation when I was running for this job, and soon after coming into office, we developed a comprehensive clean air proposal. I think we did have consultation in the best spirit with the Democratic leadership and with the Republican leadership in the Congress, with environmentalists and with representatives of industry, because I believed, and I think we all felt, that it was time for a new approach. It was time to break the logjam that hindered progress on clean air for 13 years. And so, I told our best minds, assembled that morning a year and a half ago, every American expects and deserves to breathe clean air. And as President, it is my mission to guarantee it for this generation and for the generations to come.

Well, as we used to say in the Navy: Mission defined, mission accomplished. Today I am very proud on behalf of everyone here to sign this clean air bill -- Clean Air Act of 1990.

This landmark legislation will reduce air pollution each year by 56 billion pounds -- that's 224 pounds for every man, woman, and child in America. It will go after the three main types of air pollution: acid rain, smog, and toxic air pollutants. This bill will cut emissions that cause acid rain in half and permanently cap them at these new levels. It will reduce pollutants that cause smog in our cities by 40 percent, so that by the year 2000, over 100 major American cities with poor air quality will have safer, healthier air. And it will cut dangerous air toxics emissions by over 75 percent, using new technologies. And by the next decade, its alternative fuel provisions will help reduce our dependence on foreign oil. This bill means cleaner cars, cleaner power plants, cleaner factories, and cleaner fuels; and it means a cleaner America. Virtually every person in every city and every town will enjoy its benefits.

This legislation isn't just the centerpiece of our environmental agenda. It is simply the most significant air pollution legislation in our nation's history, and it restores America's place as the global leader in environmental protection.

Nineteen ninety is now a milestone year for the environment. I also hope that it will be remembered as an important year for environmental cooperation. There were several members of my administration who saw to it, through thick and thin, that this bill got to my desk: Bill Reilly, the EPA Administrator; Jim Watkins, the Secretary of Energy. From my own staff, our Chief of Staff worked tirelessly -- John Sununu. Roger Porter did an outstanding job, working day in and day out with the Members of Congress. Boyden Gray -- the same thing. Bob Grady and so many others. And they did a great job on this.

And I also want to thank once again the Senators and Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle. Many of you are with us today, and as I mentioned earlier, others couldn't be with us today. But it isn't because of lack of interest. Congress is out; many are scattered to the winds. But the list is too long to single out everybody from the Hill that worked on this. But again, I just want to thank you that are here today and the others who couldn't be with us for your commitment and dedication -- as well as the Governors, the Governors and the experts from local governments who were also instrumental in building true bipartisan support for this legislation.

We met with business leaders who saw stewardship to the environment as a key to long-term economic growth. And we met with academics and innovative problem-solvers from every side who have helped build the foundation for this approach.

I want to commend the environmental groups that we've met with, like the Environmental Defense Fund, under the leadership of Fred Krupp, for bringing creativity to the table to end what could have been a hopeless stalemate.

We all had tough choices to make. Some said we went too far; others said we didn't go far enough. But despite our differences, we all agreed on the goal: clean air for all Americans. We agreed on the means: a new Clean Air Act.

And we all agreed it was time to take a new approach. This bill is both ambitious in its goals and innovative in its methods. For the first time, we've moved away from the redtape bureaucratic approach of the past. The old tradition of command and control regulation is not the answer. By relying on the marketplace, we can achieve the ambitious environmental goals we have as a country in the most efficient and cost-effective way possible. We'll have to take advantage of the innovation, energy, and ingenuity of every American, drawing local communities and the private sector into the cause. It's time for a new kind of environmentalism, driven by the knowledge that a sound ecology and a strong economy can coexist.

The approach in this bill balances economic growth and environmental protection. The approach is comprehensive, cost-effective; and most of all, it will work. The first major pollution reductions are where we need them most. It offers incentives, choice, and flexibility for industry to find the best solutions, all in the context of continued economic growth. The bill is balanced: It will stimulate the use of natural gas from the wells of Texas and Louisiana; and fuels made from the farms of Iowa, Illinois, the great Midwest; and cleaner, low-sulfur coal from the hills of West Virginia to the Rocky Mountain States. This bill can make America the global leader in developing a new generation of environmental technologies to which the world is now turning.

But it does more. The legislation sets reasonable deadlines for those who must comply; but once deadlines go by, once they pass, the penalties are severe. American heritage is precious. We will not turn our backs or look the other way. That means polluters must pay. And so, there is a new breeze blowing, a new current of concern for the environment. Today marks a great victory for the environment, a day when we have strengthened our clean air statutes, already the world's toughest. This legislation is not only in America's interest; like so many of the environmental issues that we are working on, this bill is in the interest of people all over the world.

And the new environmental ethos is growing. We see it in community efforts and in school involvement across America, and we're seeing it in the innovative response of private industry -- in alternative fuel service stations, electric vehicles. These companies understand we must pioneer new technology, find new solutions, envision new horizons if we're to build a bright future and a better America for our children.

There's an old saying: "We don't inherit the Earth from our parents. We borrow it from our children." We have succeeded today because of a common sense of global stewardship, a sense that it is the Earth that endures and that all of us are simply holding a sacred trust left for future generations. For the sake of future generations, I again thank each and every one of you for your commitment to our precious environment. I am now honored to sign this clean air bill into law.

Thank you all who have worked so hard for this day to become possible. Thank you, and God bless all of you.

[At this point, the President signed the bill.]

Maybe we could have the symbolism -- I don't think there's any protocol, but if I could just invite the front row here to come up with Members of Congress, we'd at least show that this is an across-the-board -- [applause] -- --

Please, go in peace. This symbolism -- we've omitted some real fine movers and shakers there, but again, my thanks to all of you. Thank you all for being with us.

Note: The President spoke at 2:32 p.m. in the East Room at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Susan S. Engeleiter, Administrator of the Small Business Administration; Representative John D. Dingell; Roger B. Porter, Assistant to the President for Economic and Domestic Policy; C. Boyden Gray, Counsel to the President; and Robert Grady, Associate Director for Natural Resources, Energy and Science at the Office of Management and Budget. S. 1630, approved November 15, was assigned Public Law No. 101 - 549.

George Bush, Remarks on Signing the Bill Amending the Clean Air Act Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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