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Special Message to the Congress About Reorganization Plans To Establish the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

July 09, 1970

To the Congress of the United States:

As concern with the condition of our physical environment has intensified, it has become increasingly clear that we need to know more about the total environment-land, water and air. It also has become increasingly clear that only by reorganizing our Federal efforts can we develop that knowledge, and effectively ensure the protection, development and enhancement of the total environment itself.

The Government's environmentally related activities have grown up piecemeal over the years. The time has come to organize them rationally and systematically. As a major step in this direction, I am transmitting today two reorganization plans: one to establish an Environmental Protection Agency, and one to establish, within the Department of Commerce, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.



Our national government today is not structured to make a coordinated attack on the pollutants which debase the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the land that grows our food. Indeed, the present governmental structure for dealing with environmental pollution often defies effective and concerted action.

Despite its complexity, for pollution control purposes the environment must be perceived as a single, interrelated system. Present assignments of departmental responsibilities do not reflect this interrelatedness.

Many agency missions, for example, are designed primarily along media lines--air, water, and land. Yet the sources of air, water, and land pollution are interrelated and often interchangeable. A single source may pollute the air with smoke and chemicals, the land with solid wastes, and a river or lake with chemical and other wastes. Control of the air pollution may produce more solid wastes, which then pollute the land or water. Control of the water-polluting effluent may convert it into solid wastes, which must be disposed of on land.

Similarly, some pollutants---chemicals, radiation, pesticides--appear in all media. Successful control of them at present requires the coordinated efforts of a variety of separate agencies and departments. The results are not always successful.

A far more effective approach to pollution control would:

--Identify pollutants.

--Trace them through the entire ecological chain, observing and recording changes in form as they occur.

--Determine the total exposure of man and his environment.

--Examine interactions among forms of pollution.

--Identify where in the ecological chain interdiction would be most appropriate.

In organizational terms, this requires pulling together into one agency a variety of research, monitoring, standard-setting and enforcement activities now scattered through several departments and agencies. It also requires that the new agency include sufficient support elements--in research and in aids to State and local anti-pollution programs, for example--to give it the needed strength and potential for carrying out its mission. The new agency would also, of course, draw upon the results of research conducted by other agencies.


Under the terms of Reorganization Plan No. 3, the following would be moved to the new Environmental Protection Agency:

--The functions carried out by the Federal Water Quality Administration (from the Department of the Interior).

--Functions with respect to pesticides studies now vested in the Department of the Interior.

--The functions carried out by the National Air Pollution Control Administration (from the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare).

--The functions carried out by the Bureau of Solid Waste Management and the Bureau of Water Hygiene, and portions of the reactions carried out by the Bureau of Radiological Health of the Environmental Control Administration (from the Department of Health, Education and Welfare).

--Certain functions with respect to pesticides carried out by the Food and Drug Administration (from the Department of Health, Education and Welfare).

--Authority to perform studies relating to ecological systems now vested in the Council on Environmental Quality.

--Certain functions respecting radiation criteria and standards now vested in the Atomic Energy Commission and the Federal Radiation Council.

--Functions respecting pesticides registration and related activities now carried out by the Agricultural Research Service (from the Department of Agriculture).

With its broad mandate, EPA would also develop competence in areas of environmental protection that have not previously been given enough attention, such, for example, as the problem of noise, and it would provide an organization to which new programs in these areas could be added.

In brief, these are the principal functions to be transferred:

Federal Water Quality Administration. Charged with the control of pollutants which impair water quality, it is broadly concerned with the impact of degraded water quality. It performs a wide variety of functions, including research, standard-setting and enforcement, and provides construction grants and technical assistance.

Certain pesticides research authority from the Department of the Interior. Authority for research on the effects of pesticides on fish and wildlife would be provided to the EPA through transfer of the specialized research authority of the pesticides act enacted in 1958. Interior would retain its responsibility to do research on all factors affecting fish and wildlife. Under this provision, only one laboratory would be transferred to the EPA--the Gulf Breeze Biological Laboratory of the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries. The EPA would work closely with the fish and wildlife laboratories remaining with the Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife.

National Air Pollution Control Administration. As the principal Federal agency concerned with air pollution, it conducts research on the effects of air pollution, operates a monitoring network, and promulgates criteria which serve as the basis for setting air quality standards. Its regulatory functions are similar to those of the Federal Water Quality Administration. NAPCA is responsible for administering the Clean Air Act, which involves designating air quality regions, approving State standards, and providing financial and technical assistance to State Control agencies to enable them to comply with the Act's provisions. It also sets and enforces Federal automotive emission standards.

Elements of the Environmental Control Administration. ECA is the focal point within HEW for evaluation and control of a broad range of environmental health problems, including water quality, solid wastes, and radiation. Programs in the ECA involve research, development of criteria and standards, and the administration of planning and demonstration grants. From the ECA, the activities of the Bureaus of Water Hygiene and Solid Waste Management and portions of the activities of the Bureau of Radiological Health would be transferred. Other functions of the ECA including those related to the regulation of radiation from consumer products and occupational safety and health would remain in HEW.

Pesticides research and standard-setting programs of the Food and Drug Administration. FDA's pesticides program consists of setting and enforcing standards which limit pesticide residues in food. EPA would have the authority to set pesticide standards and to monitor compliance with them, as well as to conduct related research. However, as an integral part of its food protection activities, FDA would retain its authority to remove from the market food with excess pesticide residues.

General ecological research from the Council on Environmental Quality. This authority to perform studies and research relating to ecological systems would be in addition to EPA's other specific research authorities, and it would help EPA to measure the impact of pollutants. The Council on Environmental Quality would retain its authority to conduct studies and research relating to environmental quality.

Environmental radiation standards programs. The Atomic Energy Commission is now responsible for establishing environmental radiation standards and emission limits for radioactivity. Those standards have been based largely on broad guidelines recommended by the Federal Radiation Council. The Atomic Energy Commission's authority to set standards for the protection of the general environment from radioactive material would be transferred to the Environmental Protection Agency. The functions of the Federal Radiation Council would also be transferred. AEC would retain responsibility for the implementation and enforcement of radiation standards through its licensing authority.

Pesticides registration program of the Agricultural Research Service. The Department of Agriculture is currently responsible for several distinct functions related to pesticides use. It conducts research on the efficacy of various pesticides as related to other pest control methods and on the effects of pesticides on nontarget plants, livestock, and poultry. It registers pesticides, monitors their persistence and carries out an educational program on pesticide use through the extension service. It conducts extensive pest control programs which utilize pesticides.

By transferring the Department of Agriculture's pesticides registration and monitoring function to the EPA and merging it with the pesticides programs being transferred from HEW and Interior, the new agency would be given a broad capability for control over the introduction of pesticides into the environment.

The Department of Agriculture would continue to conduct research on the effectiveness of pesticides. The Department would furnish this information to the EPA, which would have the responsibility for actually licensing pesticides for use after considering environmental and health effects. Thus the new agency would be able to make use of the expertise of the Department.


This reorganization would permit response to environmental problems in a manner beyond the previous capability of our pollution control programs. The EPA would have the capacity to do research on important pollutants irrespective of the media in which they appear, and on the impact of these pollutants on the total environment. Both by itself and together with other agencies, the EPA would monitor the condition of the environment-biological as well as physical. With these data, the EPA would be able to establish quantitative "environmental baselines"critical if we are to measure adequately the success or failure of our pollution abatement efforts.

As no disjointed array of separate programs can, the EPA would be able--in concert with the States--to set and enforce standards for air and water quality and for individual pollutants. This consolidation of pollution control authorities would help assure that we do not create new environmental problems in the process of controlling existing ones. Industries seeking to minimize the adverse impact of their activities on the environment would be assured of consistent standards covering the full range of their waste disposal problems. As the States develop and expand their own pollution control programs, they would be able to look to one agency to support their efforts with financial and technical assistance and training.

In proposing that the Environmental Protection Agency be set up as a separate new agency, I am making an exception to one of my own principles: that, as a matter of effective and orderly administration, additional new independent agencies normally should not be created. In this case, however, the arguments against placing environmental protection activities under the jurisdiction of one or another of the existing departments and agencies are compelling.

In the first place, almost every part of government is concerned with the environment in some way, and affects it in some way. Yet each department also has its own primary mission--such as resource development, transportation, health, defense, urban growth or agriculture-which necessarily affects its own view of environmental questions.

In the second place, if the critical standard-setting functions were centralized within any one existing department, it would require that department constantly to make decisions affecting other departments-in which, whether fairly or unfairly, its own objectivity as an impartial arbiter could be called into question.

Because environmental protection cuts across so many jurisdictions, and because arresting environmental deterioration is of great importance to the quality of life in our country and the world, I believe that in this case a strong, independent agency is needed. That agency would, of course, work closely with and draw upon the expertise and assistance of other agencies having experience in the environmental area.


The principal roles and functions of the EPA would include:

--The establishment and enforcement of environmental protection standards consistent with national environmental goals.

--The conduct of research on the adverse effects of pollution and on methods and equipment for controlling it, the gathering of information on pollution, and the use of this information in strengthening environmental protection programs and recommending policy changes.

--Assisting others, through grants, technical assistance and other means in arresting pollution of the environment.

--Assisting the Council on Environmental Quality in developing and recommending to the President new policies for the protection of the environment.

One natural question concerns the relationship between the EPA and the Council on Environmental Quality, recently established by Act of Congress.

It is my intention and expectation that the two will work in close harmony, reinforcing each other's mission. Essentially, the Council is a top-level advisory group (which might be compared with the Council of Economic Advisers), while the EPA would be an operating, "line" organization. The Council will continue to be a part of the Executive Office of the President and will perform its overall coordinating and advisory roles with respect to all Federal programs related to environmental quality.

The Council, then, is concerned with all aspects of environmental quality-wildlife preservation, parklands, land use, and population growth, as well as pollution. The EPA would be charged with protecting the environment by abating pollution. In short, the Council focuses on what our broad policies in the environmental field should be; the EPA would focus on setting and enforcing pollution control standards. The two are not competing, but complementary--and taken together, they should give us, for the first time, the means to mount an effectively coordinated campaign against environmental degradation in all of its many forms.



The oceans and the atmosphere are interacting parts of the total environmental system upon which we depend not only for the quality of our lives, but for life itself.

We face immediate and compelling needs for better protection of life and property from natural hazards, and for a better understanding of the total environment-an understanding which will enable us more effectively to monitor and predict its actions, and ultimately, perhaps to exercise some degree of control over them.

We also face a compelling need for exploration and development leading to the intelligent use of our marine resources. The global oceans, which constitute nearly three-fourths of the surface of our planet, are today the least-understood, the least developed, and the least-protected part of our earth. Food from the oceans will increasingly be a key element in the world's fight against hunger. The mineral resources of the ocean beds and of the oceans themselves, are being increasingly tapped to meet the growing world demand. We must understand the nature of these resources, and assure their development without either contaminating the marine environment or upsetting its balance.

Establishment of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration-NOAA--within the Department of Commerce would enable us to approach these tasks in a coordinated way. By employing a unified approach to the problems of the oceans and atmosphere, we can increase our knowledge and expand our opportunities not only in those areas, but in the third major component of our environment, the solid earth, as well.

Scattered through various Federal departments and agencies, we already have the scientific, technological and administrative resources to make an effective, unified approach possible. What we need is to bring them together. Establishment of NOAA would do so.

By far the largest of the components being merged would be the Commerce Department's Environmental Science Services Administration (ESSA), with some 10, 000 employees (70 percent of NOAA's total personnel strength) and estimated Fiscal 1970 expenditures of almost $200 million. Placing NOAA within the Department of Commerce therefore entails the least dislocation, while also placing it within a Department which has traditionally been a center for service activities in the scientific and technological area.


Under terms of Reorganization Plan No. 4, the programs of the following organizations would be moved into NOAA:

--The Environmental Science Services Administration (from within the Department of Commerce).

--Elements of the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries (from the Department of the Interior).

--The marine sport fish program of the Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife (from the Department of the Interior).

--The Marine Minerals Technology Center of the Bureau of Mines (from the Department of the Interior).

--The Office of Sea Grant Programs (from the National Science Foundation).

--Elements of the United States Lake Survey (from the Department of the Army).

In addition, by executive action, the programs of the following organizations would be transferred to NOAA:

--The National Oceanographic Data Center (from the Department of the Navy).

--The National Oceanographic Instrumentation Center (from the Department of the Navy).

--The National Data Buoy Project (from the Department of Transportation).

In brief, these are the principal functions of the programs and agencies to be combined:

The Environmental Science Services Administration (ESSA) comprises the following components:

--The Weather Bureau (weather, marine, river and flood forecasting and warning).

--The Coast and Geodetic Survey (earth and marine description, mapping and charting).

--The Environmental Data Service (storage and retrieval of environmental data).

--The National Environmental Satellite Center (observation of the global environment from earth-orbiting satellites).

--The ESSA Research Laboratories (research on physical environmental problems).

ESSA's activities include observing and predicting the state of the oceans, the state of the lower and upper atmosphere, and the size and shape of the earth. It maintains the nation's warning systems for such natural hazards as hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, earthquakes and seismic sea waves. It provides information for national defense, agriculture, transportation and industry.

ESSA monitors atmospheric, oceanic and geophysical phenomena on a global basis, through an unparalleled complex of air, ocean, earth and space facilities. It also prepares aeronautical and marine maps and charts.

Bureau of Commercial Fisheries and marine sport fish activities. Those fishery activities of the Department of the Interior's U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service which are ocean related and those which are directed toward commercial fishing would be transferred. The Fish and Wildlife Service's Bureau of Commercial Fisheries has the dual function of strengthening the fishing industry and promoting conservation of fishery stocks. It conducts research on important marine species and and on fundamental oceanography, and operates a fleet of oceanographic vessels and a number of laboratories. Most of its activities would be transferred. From the Fish and Wildlife Service's Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife, the marine sport fishing program would be transferred. This involves five supporting laboratories and three ships engaged in activities to enhance marine sport fishing opportunities.

The Marine Minerals Technology Center is concerned with the development of marine mining technology.

Office of Sea Grant Programs. The Sea Grant Program was authorized in 1966 to permit the Federal Government to assist the academic and industrial communities in developing marine resources and technology. It aims at strengthening education and training of marine specialists, supporting applied research in the recovery and use of marine resources, and developing extension and advisory services. The Office carries out these objectives by making grants to selected academic institutions.

The U.S. Lake Survey has two primary missions. It prepares and publishes navigation charts of the Great Lakes and tributary waters and conducts research on a variety of hydraulic and hydrologic phenomena of the Great Lakes' waters. Its activities are very similar to those conducted along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts by ESSA's Coast and Geodetic Survey.

The National Oceanographic Data Center is responsible for the collection and dissemination of oceanographic data accumulated by all Federal agencies.

The National Oceanographic Instrumentation Center provides a central Federal service for the calibration and testing of oceanographic instruments.

The National Data Buoy Development Project was established to determine the feasibility of deploying a system of automatic ocean buoys to obtain oceanic and atmospheric data.


Drawing these activities together into a single agency would make possible a balanced Federal program to improve our understanding of the resources of the sea, and permit their development and use while guarding against the sort of thoughtless exploitation that in the past laid waste to so many of our precious natural assets. It would make possible a consolidated program for achieving a more comprehensive understanding of oceanic and atmospheric phenomena, which so greatly affect our lives and activities. It would facilitate the cooperation between public and private interests that can best serve the interests of all.

I expect that NOAA would exercise leadership in developing a national oceanic and atmospheric program of research and development. It would coordinate its own scientific and technical resources with the technical and operational capabilities of other government agencies and private institutions. As important, NOAA would continue to provide those services to other agencies of government, industry and private individuals which have become essential to the efficient operation of our transportation systems, our agriculture and our national security. I expect it to maintain continuing and close liaison with the new Environmental Protection Agency and the Council on Environmental Quality as part of an effort to ensure that environmental questions are dealt with in their totality and that they benefit from the full range of the government's technical and human resources.

Authorities who have studied this matter, including the Commission on Marine Science, Engineering and Resources, strongly recommended the creation of a National Advisory Committee for the Oceans. I agree. Consequently, I will request, upon approval of the plan, that the Secretary of Commerce establish a National Advisory Committee for the Oceans and the Atmosphere to advise him on the progress of governmental and private programs in achieving the nation's oceanic and atmospheric objectives.


The reorganizations which I am here proposing afford both the Congress and the Executive Branch an opportunity to re-evaluate the adequacy of existing program authorities involved in these consolidations. As these two new organizations come into being, we may well find that supplementary legislation to perfect their authorities will be necessary. I look forward to working with the Congress in this task.

In formulating these reorganization plans, I have been greatly aided by the work of the President's Advisory Council on Executive Organization (the Ash Council), the Commission on Marine Science, Engineering and Resources (the Stratton Commission, appointed by President Johnson), my special task force on oceanography headed by Dr. James Wakelin, and by the information developed during both House and Senate hearings on proposed NOAA legislation.

Many of those who have advised me have proposed additional reorganizations, and it may well be that in the future I shall recommend further changes. For the present, however, I think the two reorganizations transmitted today represent a sound and significant beginning. I also think that in practical terms, in this sensitive and rapidly developing area, it is better to proceed a step at a time--and thus to be sure that we are not caught up in a form of organizational indigestion from trying to rearrange too much at once. As we see how these changes work out, we will gain a better understanding of what further changes---in addition to these--might be desirable.

Ultimately, our objective should be to insure that the nation's environmental and resource protection activities are so organized as to maximize both the effective coordination of all and the effective functioning of each.

The Congress, the Administration and the public all share a profound commitment to the rescue of our natural environment, and the preservation of the Earth as a place both habitable by and hospitable to man. With its acceptance of these reorganization plans, the Congress will help us fulfill that commitment.


The White House

July 9, 1970

Note: On the same day, the White House released a fact sheet summarizing the two reorganization plans, which is printed in the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents (vol. 6, p. 916). The transcript of a news briefing by Russell E. Train, Chairman, Council on Environmental Quality, and Rocco C. Siciliano, Under Secretary of Commerce, on the reorganization plans was also released.

Richard Nixon, Special Message to the Congress About Reorganization Plans To Establish the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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