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Statement on Signing the National Environmental Education Act

November 16, 1990

I am today signing S. 3176, the "National Environmental Education Act." This Act establishes an Office of Environmental Education within the Environmental Protection Agency to support and coordinate various educational, training, and awards programs.

While our environmental laws and regulatory programs are achieving their ends, this is no longer a sufficient approach given the magnitude and nature of the environmental problems we face. We must also encourage voluntary changes in individual habits. On September 19, 1989, in Spokane I spoke of the importance of the environmental ethic: "Through millions of individual decisions -- simple, everyday, personal choices -- we are determining the fate of the Earth. So the conclusion is also simple: We're all responsible, and it's surprisingly easy to move from being part of the problem to being part of the solution."

Environmental education heightens public sensitivity to the consequences of individual and collective actions, while also preparing future environmental management professionals. Hence, this legislation helps empower people to do the right for the environment through education and fostering awareness.

While I enthusiastically support the goals of this legislation, I must note my reservations about two provisions of the bill that raise constitutional questions. First, Section 10 of the bill establishes an Environmental Education and Training Foundation. The bill provides that the Foundation shall be a nonprofit, charitable corporation; that it shall not be an agency or establishment of the United States; and that appointment to the Foundation's board of directors shall not constitute employment by, or the holding of an office of, the United States. These statements are contradicted by the facts that the Foundation is established by the Congress; funded by the Congress; endowed with the sole purpose of furthering the activities and services of a Federal agency, the Environmental Protection Agency; and by the fact that the Foundation's Directors are appointed by the Administrator of the EPA.

Entities that are neither clearly governmental nor clearly private should not be created. The establishment of such entities is unwise. It undermines the separation of powers principles of our Constitution, blurring the distinction between public and private entities in a way that may diminish the political accountability of government. Accordingly, I instruct the Attorney General and the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency to prepare legislation for submission to the next Congress that will cure the serious defects in this legislation.

I also note that Section 9(b)(1) of the bill purports to require that the Administrator of EPA receive advice concerning the execution of his functions under this bill exclusively from a specified advisory council. This requirement unconstitutionally limits the range of advice that one of my subordinates may receive in the execution of his duties. I instruct the Attorney General and the Administrator to prepare legislation that will cure this problem as well.

George Bush

The White House,

November 16, 1990.

Note: S. 3176, approved November 16, was assigned Public Law No. 101 - 619. An original was not available for verification of the content of this statement.

George Bush, Statement on Signing the National Environmental Education Act Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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