Public Papers - 1989 - June
Message to the Congress Transmitting the Report of the Council on Environmental Quality
To the Congress of the United States:
I am pleased to transmit to the Congress the annual report of the Council on Environmental Quality, Environmental Quality 1987 - 1988. This report focuses on the Nation's air, land, and water resources that are particularly affected by the urbanization of our population and by other intensive uses. It presents CEQ's analysis of the historical trends, current status, and outlook for urban air quality, developed water resources, and the growing burden of municipal solid waste on the urban landscape. It also offers an assessment of the Federal lands reserved for our national defense installations, which present special environmental challenges.
Americans built great cities that have facilitated commerce and economic growth and prosperity, and provided homes to millions of new citizens from all over the world. Today nearly three-fourths of our people reside in communities classified as ``urban'', which make up only about 2 percent of this country's total land acreage. As our Nation has generally prospered by intensively developing these urban areas, expectations for human health and quality of the natural environment have also increased.
Hence, for nearly 2 decades, governments at all levels have increased their efforts to address pollution and environmental degradation. Parallel efforts in the private sector have accompanied government programs to protect the human environment. As a result, we can point proudly to improvements on a number of fronts. Some of these are reviewed in this CEQ report. For example, the Federal motor vehicle control program, which sets emissions standards for all new production vehicles, has brought about a clearly demonstrated improvement in the quality of the air in cities throughout the Nation.
But we can do better. That is why we are committed to cleaner air in the Nation's cities, and why we believe that a fresh approach to the Clean Air Act can help meet the Nation's environmental needs without compromising our record of unprecedented economic growth. It is now clear that different cities have varying climatic conditions, industrial mixes, and automobile use patterns. Cleaner air in our cities will thus require credible commitment, timetables, and strategies for the different regions of the country. Innovative solutions tailored to meet local circumstances will be required. Draconian limits on economic growth and on the use of the automobile should not be necessary in order to give Americans clean air at levels they are willing to pay for, but it will require significant Federal, State, and local leadership and innovative approaches from government and industry.
We must do better. This country must make every effort to stem the rising tide of garbage and industrial waste through a more aggressive use of waste minimization and recycling practices. America as a nation is filling landfills faster than it can establish new ones. The waste problem is not going away, and it can no longer be neglected. Waste minimization must start at home and in the local communities, by reducing household garbage and separating wastes for recycling. In many cases it is in the economic self-interest of industry to recycle its wastes, to minimize waste generation at the source, or to adopt less polluting processes. Innovative techniques that have proven effective in reducing wastes both in industry and in local communities should be widely shared.
We will do better. The development of America's abundant water resources has stimulated economic advancement in nearly all regions of the country and has facilitated growth in interstate commerce generally. Since 1972, a national expenditure of 0 billion for water pollution abatement and control has restored water quality in many places so that today some three-fourths of our rivers, lakes, and estuaries can fully support fishing and swimming. But the pollution that washed ashore on popular beaches last summer has again focused attention on the condition of the Nation's coastal waters. Abuses of the oceans and the Great Lakes must end and will end, and we will work closely with the States to enforce and strengthen the effectiveness of the Ocean Dumping Act and the Clean Water Act. We must also better protect America's wetlands, by working towards a goal of no net loss through a coordinated wetlands policy. We are also committed to protecting the Nation's surface and ground water resources from contamination by fertilizers and pesticides without jeopardizing the economic vitality of U.S. agriculture, and we will work with farmers to adopt environmentally sound production practices, safer chemicals, and biological pest controls.
Doing a better job of cleaning the air will make our cities more healthful. Doing a better job of solid waste management will make our landscapes safer and more attractive. Doing a better job of protecting our water resources will add importantly to the overall opportunities for outdoor recreation within and near our urban communities, closer to where most Americans spend most of their time. Recent studies of outdoor recreation have pointed out the enormous popularity of water-based recreation activities and have stressed the positive relationship between improvements in water quality and the effective use of urban lands available for outdoor recreation.
A better life for all Americans is our great common desire, and I believe that economic growth and a clean environment are both part of what all Americans understand a better life to mean. The protection of the environment and the conservation and wise management of our natural resources must have a high priority on our national agenda. Given sound research, hard work, sufficient public and private funds, and -- most important -- the necessary political will, we can achieve and maintain an environment that protects the public health and enhances the quality of life for us all.
The White House,
June 23, 1989.