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Statement by the President Upon Signing Bill Amending the Atomic Energy Act.

August 24, 1965

I HAVE today approved H.R. 8856, which clarifies the authority of the Atomic Energy Commission with respect to the generation, sale, or transmission of electric power.

It is, of course, essential that AEC possess the authority to perform its mission and especially to advance nuclear research. Although programs must not be jeopardized by State or local requirements, there is the most compelling need for AEC, and all other agencies, to cooperate with and work with State and local authorities, and private organizations as well. Every effort must and will be made to adapt Federal practices to State and local requirements. H.R. 8856 is general legislation in that it clarifies AEC's authority with respect to all of its programs, and the bill confers no powers on the AEC not presently possessed by other Federal agencies with similar responsibilities.

The particular problem that created the need for clarifying the AEC authority is the proposed transmission line to be located in San Marco County (California) to supply the new linear accelerator facility under construction at Stanford University. The town of Woodside, through which a portion of the line will pass, has indicated in many ways its strong desire that the transmission line be placed underground rather than in the conventional overhead fashion. Putting aside all questions of legal authority and the views of the various parties involved, it is clear than the preservation of our Nation's scenic beauty merits very high priority. There is, however, in this particular situation a compelling need to have power available to the accelerator in order to maintain the research program on schedule and to keep intact the scientific team that has been put together to operate the program.

Faced with this dilemma, I asked Mr. Laurance Rockefeller, one of the Nation's outstanding conservationists and the Chairman of the White House Conference on Natural Beauty, to visit the site and to make such recommendations as he thought appropriate.

In response to my request, Mr. Rockefeller has made such a study and has recommended the following course of action:

1. The AEC should be instructed to construct overhead transmission lines to meet the immediate power needs for the Stanford project, with the line to be designed and built with the maximum concern for the natural environment of the area.

2. The town of Woodside should be requested to use any funds earmarked for the under grounding of the accelerator transmission line to bury existing distribution lines in the community.

3. The Federal Government should immediately undertake a program of accelerated research into the technology of placing high voltage transmission lines underground.

4. The AEC should agree to replace the overhead transmission line with an underground line when full power is required for the project--estimated to be sometime between 5 and 7 years--assuming that the local area has made reasonable progress in its own efforts to underground the powerlines in the community.

It seems to me that Mr. Rockefeller's suggestions make the best of a difficult situation. This administration is firmly committed to preserving and protecting natural beauty and welcomes a role of leadership in encouraging others to do so. However, the practical considerations involved in this instance and our admitted need for improved technology in handling underground high voltage transmission lines argue strongly for constructing the line by conventional procedures, with appropriate assurances to the community that the question will remain under constant review.

To those who argue that failure to locate this line underground at this time would be a severe blow to our natural beautification program, we can sincerely say that construction of this line is not an irrevocable or irreversible act. I earnestly hope that our technology will move swiftly forward and that this particular line can be undergrounded not too far in the future.

In the meantime, attention to aesthetic considerations will continue to be stressed throughout the Federal Government. By the same token, it is my hope that the action of the Federal Government will spur State and local governments, as well as private organizations, to give equally strong emphasis to aesthetics in these and similar situations.

I have instructed the AEC to give great weight to the natural environment in constructing the line, including not only the design of the poles but to their location and to the clearing operations. In addition, I have instructed my science adviser, Dr. Donald Hornig, to work with the appropriate Federal departments and agencies to speed our research into the technology of placing high voltage lines underground.

Preserving our Nation's bountiful heritage of natural beauty is not a cheap nor an easy matter. Strengthened efforts are necessary if we are to pass on to future generations a Nation that enjoys the benefits of both industrialization and of unspoiled natural scenery.

Note: As enacted, the bill (H.R. 8856) is Public Law 89-135 (79 Stat. 551).

Lyndon B. Johnson, Statement by the President Upon Signing Bill Amending the Atomic Energy Act. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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