Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks Upon Signing the District of Columbia Air Pollution Control Act

July 30, 1968

Secretary Cohen, Members of Congress, Mayor Washington, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:

The smokestack that pours smoke into the air, once a welcome symbol of economic prosperity, has now been transformed into a very grim reminder of the danger that all of us face from polluted air.

The smog that clouds our major cities is a blot on our Nation's ability to control its environment. Today we take a small step toward wiping that stain from the skies.

The Air Quality Act of 1967 gives us the means to launch an all-out attack on air pollution. It recognized that air pollution was a problem that was not confined to geographic areas, and its solution required a partnership of Federal and local efforts.

Today I will sign a bill that will greatly help the District of Columbia deal with the problem and the threat of polluted air in this beloved city of ours that we call the National Capital.

The District of Columbia Air Pollution Control Act authorizes the District of Columbia Council to set emission and air quality standards and to prescribe regulations and to prescribe penalties to control air pollution. It also authorizes the Mayor to prepare a comprehensive program to administer the regulations of the Council and to join with our neighboring communities in a joint effort of air pollution control and prevention.

Not until today did the people of the Nation's Capital have the protection of modern air pollution law. But a law alone as all of us know is not very much of a solution. Our modern civilization would collapse if we were to stop all the activities that contribute to air pollution. But I don't think we need to take any such drastic measures. Because air pollution can be reduced without disrupting the economy, and without stopping the forward progress of technology, and without depriving American citizens of any of the conveniences of modern life.

As I once said to the Congress in a special message that we sent there on this subject: "Air pollution is the inevitable consequence of neglect. It can be controlled--it can be controlled--when that neglect is no longer tolerated." So today we come here in an attempt to support the Congress in trying to do something about repairing that neglect.

We hope that we will move a step closer to our national objective, a very worthy goal for all Americans--to cleanse the American skies.

We are late in facing up to some of these problems. We are not at all comprehensive and not taking all the steps at once in doing so.

But I remind each of you, as Mr. Churchill reminded that little temperance lady, "So little have we done, so much do we have yet to do."

Note: The President spoke at 5:35 p.m. in the East Room at the White House. In his opening words he referred to Wilbur J. Cohen, Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, and Walter E. Washington, Commissioner of the District of Columbia.

For the President's special message to Congress of January 30, 1967, on protection of our natural heritage, from which he quoted in the above remarks, see 1967 volume, this series, Book I, Item 20,

As enacted, the bill (S. 1941) is Public Law 90440 (82 Stat. 458).

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks Upon Signing the District of Columbia Air Pollution Control Act Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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