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Public Papers - 1990

Remarks on Signing the Earth Day Proclamation

1990-01-03

It's good to see you all. Well, excuse the brief delay. Let me salute these distinguished gentlemen here: Admiral Truly, Mike Deland, Bill Reilly. Of course, it's a great, special pleasure to have Senator Chafee and Congressman Mo Udall here. And welcome to the White House on this special occasion. On April 22, 1990, America will celebrate Earth Day. I'm the guy that got mixed up on Pearl Harbor Day -- [laughter] -- so I've got to be very careful that these people -- Dr. Bromley, hi -- understand. [Laughter]

No, but it is on April 22d that we celebrate Earth Day. And across the country, citizens will be asked to make a personal and collective commitment to the protection of the environment, to think globally and act locally. And April 22d also marks the 20th anniversary of the first Earth Day, giving each and every one of us a chance to reflect on the progress made over the past 20 years and set the environmental agenda for the next decade.

We've just started a new year. And 20 years ago this week, on another new year, President Nixon signed landmark environmental legislation -- the National Environmental Policy Act -- into law. The historic environmental laws of the seventies followed this step -- the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the laws regulating pesticides and toxic substances and hazardous waste. And that act created the CEQ [Council on Environmental Quality], a voice for the environment that's been revitalized now, thanks to Mike Deland. And the EPA, established some 20 years ago under the leadership of Bill Ruckelshaus, is thriving under our able Administrator, Bill Reilly.

We've made much progress in the last 20 years, spending hundreds of billions of dollars to make pollution control work. In 1987 alone, we spent a total of billion -- over 62 of it in the private sector. I'm particularly proud that in 1989 we were able to take a number of new initiatives. We've signed legislation to protect wetlands and valuable waterfowl habitat. We've added funds to expand our parks, forests, and wildlife refuges; and we've banned the import of ivory. And we plan to host an international conference on climate change this spring. We've proposed to phase out CFC's worldwide, and a ban on unsafe hazardous waste exports. We've proposed a phaseout of asbestos by 1997. And we've introduced the first major overhaul of the Clean Air Act in over a decade -- the most ambitious Clean Air Act proposed by any administration.

We need action on the revisions to the Clean Air Act we sent to Congress. The package was, in my view, carefully balanced to restore clean air for all Americans while sustaining job creation and competitiveness and economic growth. And I call on the Congress now to pass a Clean Air Act quickly, carefully, and responsibly -- a Clean Air Act that harnesses the power of the marketplace to provide future generations with a cleaner, safer environment without jeopardizing the economy or the jobs on which all Americans depend.

I believe with all my heart that we can serve both of these important goals. And if the Congress cannot pass a bill that preserves both, then I would not be able to sign it; I'd have to veto it. But the Federal Government is only part of the story. It is in the city halls and State capitals, in schools and in the workplace, in this country and around the world, that real progress on the environment will be made. Environmental awareness -- it's really got to be a second nature.

Earth Day can be part of the American tradition of private and public leadership that will help us reach that goal. In deciding to make this Earth Day proclamation the first proclamation of the new year -- and the new decade, I might add -- I want to make this point: Earth Day -- and every day -- should inspire us to save the land we love, to realize that global problems do have local solutions, and to make the preservation of the planet a personal commitment.

I now take great pleasure in signing this proclamation, recognizing April 22d, 1990, as Earth Day. So, come on over.

Note: The President spoke at 2:11 p.m. in the Roosevelt Room at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Richard H. Truly, Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration; and D. Allan Bromley, Science Advisor to the President and Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy. The proclamation is listed in Appendix E at the end of this volume.

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