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Public Papers - 1990

Remarks at a Tree-Planting Ceremony in Thousand Oaks, California


Thank you all. What a lovely, lovely day. Please be seated, and thank you. And may I salute Governor Deukmejian; Senator Pete Wilson; your own Congressman, Congressman Gallegly; Bob Lagomarsino, neighboring Congressman; the distinguished environmentalist who leads our EPA, Bill Reilly, with us today from Washington. And of course, Dr. Jerry Martin [Miller], we want to thank you for cleaning up the air and affording us such a very special day on your campus.

It is a pleasure to see these trees, spread beneath a broad and peaceful sky like, I'd say, a thousand points of shade. [Laughter] And in a few minutes, it's going to be a thousand and one.

I'm told that the people of Thousand Oaks have invested countless hours in urban forestry management, something every community in America can do. Trees save on cooling cost, reduce urban smog. Trees mean greener cities and neighborhoods. And they are God's great filter -- noise and air; providers of shade, privacy, and wildlife habitat.

But more than that, trees create a sense of community among the people who plant them and a sense of continuity between generations. And if we had stronger trees, these would not be falling over if we had them tied into the tree. [Laughter] And that's why I'm so pleased that this year's budget will begin our ambitious national tree-planting program.

I'm also pleased about something else. I made a commitment as a candidate for President to break the congressional stalemate that has hindered progress for clean air in this country for 13 years. And I continued that commitment beginning a year and a half ago by coming forward with a comprehensive clean air proposal. We worked with the leaders from both parties, local government, environmentalists, representatives of industry because I believed that it was time for a new approach. And I want to thank your Senator for his support. I want to thank the example set by the Governor of this State. I want to thank the Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle who were extraordinarily supportive.

The old tradition of simply regulation was not the answer. And we needed a new kind of environmentalism, driven by the knowledge that a sound ecology and a strong economy can go forward together. And so, I challenged the Congress to work with me to break the logjam of clean air. And while our proposals differed in minor details, Congress has passed a bill that is true to the architecture and spirit of our approach.

Thanks to the persistence of Pete Wilson and other Members of Congress and to our able head of our EPA -- Bill Reilly is with us today -- we are on the verge of a major domestic achievement for all Americans. And I can now say to Californians that I will sign this landmark clean air legislation as soon as it gets to my desk within the next few days.

Just a couple of details: The bill that I proposed last year and that Congress passed last week is efficient, effective legislation that will pull 56 billion pounds of pollution from the air every year -- 224 pounds for every man, woman, and child in America. And this legislation is a bold departure from the old Washington-knows-best approach. It achieves unprecedented pollution reductions by using incentives and the power of market forces. And in a phrase, we're cleaning up the air not through overregulation but through smarter regulation.

This clean air legislation will cut in half the emissions that cause acid rain, by 10 million tons, and then cap them at these lower levels. It will cut the emissions that cause smog in our cities, so that by the end of this century more than 100 major U.S. cities will have cleaner, healthier air. And it will cut these dangerous air toxic emissions by 75 percent. And it will encourage broader use of alternative fuels.

Ever since I first joined the Congress more than 25 years ago, I have been committed to using our laws to protect the environment; and so, of course, has our Senator Pete Wilson. We both believe that in its size and scope this clean air act isn't simply the most significant environmental legislation of this administration, it's the most significant air pollution legislation in the history of this country.

This clean air act is sound energy policy as well because it does promote conservation. It encourages the use of cleaner fuels. It strengthens America's energy security. And in a short time since we issued the clean air challenge, we've seen a revolution in thinking about alternative fuels. The time is right, the people are ready, and industry is responding.

We are on the verge of a new era for clean air. And so, to commemorate a milestone in America's environmental history, today we'll plant a tree, because what we celebrate this day has roots running deeper than law. It is potential for new progress, a planting with a daily harvest, a promise lasting far longer than our lifetimes.

And so, thank you all for joining us at this symbolic occasion. I am very grateful that we have a clean air act. And now I would encourage all the citizens in our country to follow the example of today, right on this campus, and assist us in making tree planting a major national objective -- not only good for the United States but it benefits the entire world.

Thank you all so much for coming.

Note: The President spoke at 9:50 a.m. in Kingsman Park on the campus of California Lutheran University. In his remarks, he referred to Jerry Miller, president of the university.

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