Richard Nixon photo

Statement on Signing the Ports and Waterways Safety Act of 1972.

July 10, 1972

IN MANY respects, petroleum is the lifeblood of modem-day America. However, the increasing use of waterways for transporting oil poses grave environmental hazards, setting the scene for ecological tragedies like the tanker collision which dumped over a half million gallons of oil into San Francisco Bay early last year. We must--and can--prevent such incidents from recurring.

It is for this reason that I especially welcome the action of the Congress in passing H.R. 8140, the Ports and Waterways Safety Act of 1972, which I first proposed almost 26 months ago as part of a 10-point action program to prevent marine pollution from oil spills, and which I am today signing into law.

Under this act, the Coast Guard gains much-needed new authority to protect against oil spills by controlling vessel traffic in our inland waters and territorial seas, by regulating the handling and storage of dangerous cargoes on the waterfront, by establishing safety requirements for waterfront equipment and facilities, and by setting standards for design, construction, maintenance, and operation of tank vessels. The legislation provides a firm basis for the safeguards we will need to handle increased tanker traffic with minimum environmental risk.

Passage of the Ports and Waterways Safety Act is also significant in that this is the first of my major environmental proposals to receive final action in the 92d Congress. In a special message on the environment last February, I asked the Congress to make 1972 a year of action on the numerous measures I have put before it in this field--a field where the costs of legislative delay can be so terribly high.

My hope is that the enactment of H.R. 8140 is the beginning of a sustained response to this appeal, and that I shall soon have the opportunity to sign others of the more than 20 environmental bills now pending in the Senate and House. Among this backlog are bills which would:

--update our water quality laws,

--improve pesticide regulation,

--control the disposal of toxic substances,

--combat noise pollution,

--curb ocean dumping,

--establish a national land use policy,

--coordinate power plant siting,

--regulate strip mining,

--strengthen wildlife protection, and

--expand recreational areas and wilderness preserves.

Time is not on our side on any of these fronts. The trends and forces which contribute to environmental degradation continue apace, even in a political season.

With determined action when the Congress goes back to work later this month, however, there is still time to write a fine record of environmental achievement this year.

Once again, I appeal most urgently to the leaders, the committee chairmen, and the individual members of both parties in both Houses to meet their responsibility to the American people and to America's share of the earth by writing such a record.

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

As enacted, H.R. 8140 is Public Law 92-340 (86 Stat. 424).

Richard Nixon, Statement on Signing the Ports and Waterways Safety Act of 1972. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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