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Statement About the Environmental Legislative Program

September 05, 1972

THE GOLDEN Gate National Recreation Area--Gateway West--when approved by the Congress, will provide recreational facilities serving an estimated 4.5 million people a year. It will be a key element in our program to provide a Legacy of Parks for the next and future generations.

However, like so much of our needed environmental legislation, Gateway West still awaits Congressional action.

This points up the fact that success in our efforts to restore and renew the American environment depends on cooperation in the partnership between the executive and the legislative branches of the Government. Therefore, let us review the record of how well each branch has performed in this partnership.

Looking first at the executive branch, during this Administration we have increased budget requests for pollution control programs by 400 percent.

While awaiting new legislation from the Congress, we have made use of the Refuse Act of 1899 to provide authority now to crack down on flagrant polluters-and we have increased enforcement actions by 600 percent.

We have named the first Council on Environmental Quality and created the Environmental Protection Agency, to provide strong institutional leadership both in formulating environmental policies and in enforcing environmental standards. I have proposed but the Congress has not yet approved---creation of a Department of Natural Resources which would complete the needed reorganization for environmental and natural resources programs.

Most important, I have proposed the most comprehensive legislative program in the Nation's history not only to solve the environmental problems of today but also to prevent environmental damage in the future.

In 1970---2 1/2 years ago---I sent a sweeping, 37-point environmental message to the Congress, proposing a wide range of pioneering new legislation to control air and water pollution and to provide more parks and open spaces within reach of urban areas. In 1971 I sent a second major environmental message, again proposing comprehensive water pollution control legislation, which would allow the Nation to achieve clean water without causing inflationary pressures. I also recommended new initiatives to control ocean dumping, pesticides, toxic substances, noise, strip mining, and power plant siting. In a third major environmental message in 1972 I urged a number of additional measures, including a tax on harmful emissions of sulfur oxides, controls over underground disposal of toxic pollutants and sediment from construction, and a measure to protect endangered species.

These many proposals I have made, if enacted, would provide the authority to protect and preserve our natural environment for decades. But the Congress has failed to perform its part of the partnership. Legislation needed now languishes in the Congress, mired in inaction and jurisdictional squabbles.

Most of my clean water and other environmental proposals have now been before the Congress for over a year and a half, and more than 20 of them are still pending. Every day of inaction sees more of our land despoiled, our water further polluted, noise levels mounting, and harmful substances spreading throughout the environment. The members of the Senate and House are simply not keeping pace with the concern of citizens throughout the Nation for positive action. In some cases, the quality of the environment is taking second place to Senators' concerns over which Senatorial committee has jurisdiction over a particular problem.

Last week, I referred to the wide range of measures that have been "stuck in the mud" of the 92d Congress. This metaphor, unfortunately, is particularly applicable to action on my environmental proposals.

The Congress still has an opportunity to rid itself of this label and to write an historic record of environmental achievement. In the short time left in this Congress, most of these bills can be enacted.

We cannot afford to allow our priceless natural heritage to become a hostage to partisanship. Restoring and protecting the environment is not a Democratic or Republican issue. All Americans recognize the importance of this endeavor.

To the American people, I pledge that the pressures of this political season will in no way diminish my Administration's sense of urgency in environmental action. But the Congress must also fulfill its part of the partnership. I again urge the Congress to act without further delay on these critically needed proposals to protect and restore the American environment.

Note: The statement was released at San Francisco, Calif.

On the same day, the White House released a fact sheet on the environmental legislative program.

A White House announcement of the transfer of certain lands to State and local governments for park and recreational use under the Legacy of Parks program and a fact sheet on the property review program were also released. The announcement is printed in the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents (vol. 8, p. 1346).

Richard Nixon, Statement About the Environmental Legislative Program Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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