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White House Fact Sheet on Environmental Initiatives

September 18, 1989

Cleaning Up the Nation's Air

Clean Air Act

On June 12 the President announced proposals to reduce emissions which cause acid rain, urban ozone, and toxic air pollution. The proposals, the first major overhaul of the Clean Air Act to be proposed by an administration in over a decade, calls for a 10 billion ton reduction in SO2 emissions by the year 2000, a 2 million ton reduction in NOx, and a 40-percent reduction in emission of volatile organic compounds which cause urban smog, and a reduction of 75 to 90 percent in air toxic emissions. These reductions will also help to curb an increase in global warming resulting from fossil fuel combustion. The proposal also calls for use of alternative fuels in 1 million vehicles by 1997. Alternative fuels, while reducing ozone precursors, will also reduce the toxic aromatics which come from conventional gasoline. The President submitted a comprehensive clean air bill to the Congress on July 21 embodying the proposals announced on June 12.

Clean Coal Technologies

The President proposed $710 million in FY 1990 for the Clean Coal Technology Program to encourage development of new technologies to reduce SO2 and NOx while still allowing coal to play a role in our energy future.

Fuel Efficiency

The administration approved action to increase Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency (CAFE) standards for automobiles to 27.5 miles per gallon. This action will reduce oil imports and reduce the contribution of automobile emissions to global warming.

Airborne Toxics

Asbestos Ban

On July 7 EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] announced an almost total phaseout of all uses of asbestos by 1997. The ban will prohibit importation, manufacture, and processing of asbestos, a carcinogen linked to lung cancer and mesothelioma (lung and chest cancer). EPA estimates asbestos is responsible for 3,000 to 12,000 cancer deaths each year. The action comes after over a decade of proposed rulemaking and data analysis on effects of asbestos and its uses.

Air Toxics Emissions Standards for Benzene

On August 31st the EPA Administrator [William K. Reilly] announced standards to reduce public health risks from benzene emissions. This air toxics standard has been in litigation for years, and this action represents an important step toward reducing emissions of a major air toxic pollutant.

Hazardous Waste Cleanup

Medical Waste

EPA implemented a medical waste tracking program on March 10 to track medical wastes to ensure proper disposal and prevent ocean pollution. The pilot program applies to 10 States. EPA will report to Congress after 2 years on whether nationwide application is needed. Violators can be charged up to $25,000 for civil penalties and up to $50,000 for criminal penalties. The program constitutes a first step in the President's pledge to clean up medical wastes which have washed up on beaches.

Superfund Cleanup

The President's budget proposed $315 million to pursue an aggressive cleanup schedule of toxic waste sites; and the administration has opposed congressional efforts to cut the Superfund budget to $150 million.

Superfund Management Review

The President proposed in February a major strengthening of the Superfund program to beef up enforcement. On June 14, under the President's direction, Administrator Reilly concluded a management review of the Superfund program, outlining initiatives for a more effective program, including immediate control of acute threats, better enforcement to induce private-party cleanups, and expanded research into better technologies for cleanup. Over 500 people will be added to EPA's enforcement staff to ensure that sites are cleaned up.

Department of Energy Nuclear Weapons Facilities

The President has endorsed a major increase of almost a billion dollars in the Federal Government's effort to clean up the environmental effects of Federal nuclear weapons plants. Under the President's direction, Secretary [of Energy] Watkins announced a 5-year environmental and safety cleanup for Federal nuclear weapons facilities. The administration is aggressively investigating any possible violations of applicable environmental laws that may have occurred at Federal facilities.

National Energy Strategy

The President announced the development of a national energy strategy, and the Department of Energy has conducted five public hearings across the Nation to elicit public testimony. The strategy will have as one component a plan to reconcile the need for a secure, abundant energy supply with environmental protection.

Ocean Pollution

The President proposed in his 1990 budget and has sent to Congress legislation which will toughen penalties for those who dump waste illegally in our oceans. The legislation calls for criminal felony sanctions against illegal dumpers. The administration signed a consent agreement with New York providing for phaseout of ocean dumping of sewage, sludge, and industrial wastes by 1991.

International Environment

Global Climate Change

The President proposed an increase in global environmental research for FY 1990 of 43 percent, or $191.5 million. In addition to Clean Air Act initiatives and the Clean Coal Technology Program, the United States will host the plenary meeting next February of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The United States chairs the Response Strategies Working Group which Secretary Baker addressed last January, where he stressed the importance of a coordinated effort to address climate change. The United States has begun discussions on a framework for a global convention to reduce emissions of gases which may cause global warming.


On March 3 the President called for a worldwide phaseout of chlorofluorocarbons by year 2000 if safe substitutes are available. Chlorofluorocarbons are responsible for depletion of the ozone layer.

Hazardous Waste Exports

On March 10 the President called for a ban on the export of hazardous waste unless the receiving country agrees to its proper disposal through a bilateral agreement. A small amount of hazardous waste generated in this country is exported, some to developing countries whose lack of good disposal practices could pose environmental problems.

Poland and Hungary

On July 9 and 10 the President announced technical assistance to both Poland and Hungary to control air pollution and improve water quality.

Driftnet Fishing Agreements

The administration successfully persuaded Japan, Taiwan, and Korea to enter into driftnet fishing agreements to monitor driftnet practices and enforce laws prohibiting the take of U.S.-origin salmon. The agreements will allow the United States to quantify the incidental take of seabirds, seals, whales, and other marine mammals. Each year several hundred billion dollars worth of illegal U.S.-origin salmon is traded on the international market. The agreements will protect the U.S. fishing industry from such losses in the future while protecting the marine environment at the same time.

Peace Corps Initiative

On September 18 the President announced a joint Peace Corps/EPA initiative to begin in 1990 the training of Peace Corps volunteers, as part of their standard preparation for duty, to deal with a full range of environmental challenges: water pollution prevention, waste disposal, reforestation, pesticide management.

Endangered Species and Habitat Protection

Ban on African Elephant Ivory

On June 5 the administration announced a ban on importation of African elephant ivory into the United States. Under the ban, importation of African elephant ivory from any country is illegal and includes both commercial and noncommercial shipments. Seized goods could subject a traveler to $5,000 fines. As a result, the value of ivory on the world market has plummeted, reducing the incentive for illegal poaching of elephants.

Desert Tortoises

The Department of the Interior issued an emergency listing of the Desert Tortoise as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act in southern California, Utah, and Nevada.


The Department of the Interior has acquired additional habitat for endangered panthers in Florida.

Habitat Protection

The EPA has denied a permit for construction of the controversial Two Forks Dam in Colorado because construction would have destroyed thousands of acres of valuable wildlife habitat.

Fishery Development

The President reversed a proposal to cap the outlay of funds collected under the Wallop-Breaux Trust Fund used for fisheries protection and development.

Offshore Oil Drilling

In his February address to the Joint Session of the Congress, the President proposed to postpone lease sales of offshore oil and gas development in environmentally sensitive areas off the coasts of California and Florida. The President set up a task force to examine environmental concerns associated with these sales and pledged to pursue development only in areas where drilling can be accomplished in an environmentally sound manner. The administration published proposed rules to prohibit oil and gas leasing in the environmentally sensitive Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary off the coast of California.

Resource Restoration and Protection


The President has called for a national goal of "no net loss" of wetlands. Consistent with that pledge, an interagency task force has been convened and is meeting to develop recommendations to meet that goal. The President has proposed special legislative authority to allow interest from monies collected under the Pittman-Robinson Act to be used for wetland purchases under the North American Waterfowl Management Act.

Expanding Parks and Refuges

The President proposed in his FY 1990 budget new spending of $206 million to expand America's national parks, forests, and wildlife refuges. This was the first proposed expansion in several years.


The President has long believed that the concept of stewardship of our natural resources is the basis of a sound approach to the environment. As part of this belief, the President has long been an advocate of reforestation. His personal commitment to planting trees is indicative of his support for the ongoing efforts of Federal, State, and local programs, as well as reforestation projects undertaken by private and voluntary organizations.

George Bush, White House Fact Sheet on Environmental Initiatives Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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