Richard Nixon on Environment

President of the U.S., 1968-1974


EPA was created as protector of earth's resources

The Environmental Protection Agency, created by Republican President Richard Nixon and with a legacy of forward thinking environmental policy, has now become an agent of protection not of the earth and the earth's resources, but of the corporate profits of fossil fuel, chemical, and big agricultural companies. From our land to our water to our air to our food, our most precious treasures do not just lack protection; they are currently under assault.

Environmental justice does not just mean justice for the earth; it also means justice for the people who live on the earth. Gutting the Clean Air Act--as has recently been done--does not just affect the air; it affects our breathing. Gutting the Clean Water Act--as has recently been done--does not just affect the water; it affects our bodies when we drink it. As protectors of our earth, and protectors of our own bodies, we should vigorously and passionately defend the health of our environment.

Source: Healing the Soul of America, by Marianne Williamson, p.178 , Jul 24, 2018

1969: Halt all dumping in the Great Lakes

In his State of the Union Address of 1969, President Nixon detailed a 37-point message on the American environment that included goals ranging from monitoring motor vehicle emissions standards to halting all dumping in the Great Lakes. President Nixon's ambitious endeavor would eventually lead to his request for Congress to establish the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Under the express direction of President Nixon and following public hearings, in late 1970 the EPA was established and "a new era of environmental protection began." This endeavor was the first attempt by any administration to specifically address environmental problems through a newly created, independent agency.
Source: Cameron Lynch in W&M Env. Law Review, vol. 26 #1, p.215-216 , Jan 1, 2001

1970: Created cabinet-level Council on Environmental Quality

Mounting environmental concerns in the late 1960s drove President Nixon to begin to officially examine the problem in depth. To aid his administration in developing environmental policy, Nixon first created the Council on Environmental Quality ("CEQ")--a cabinet committee overseen and coordinated by the White House Office of Science and Technology. Eventually, lack of interest and experience of this council's members forced Nixon to name a specialized task force with significant environmental experience to address the problem. The task force's main duty was to develop Nixon's first major environmental address, which he delivered to Congress in February of 1970. Following this address, the National Environmental Protection Agency ("NEPA") was enacted and it served as a predecessor, in both theory and structure, to what would eventually become the EPA.
Source: Cameron Lynch in W&M Env. Law Review, vol. 26 #1, p.218-219 , Jan 1, 2001

1970-72: Created EPA which passed Clean Air Act

While there was some hesitation and concern regarding Nixon's intentions in creating the EPA, there is a general consensus that Nixon's true motivation was to purify the nation from an environmental standpoint. Disillusioned by the lack of cooperation and cohesion on environmental policy, as well as by the overall ineffectiveness of the NEPA, Nixon utilized an executive order to create the EPA, an independent government organization, in late 1970. The EPA subsequently passed its first piece of legislation, the Clean Air Act, in 1972. While Nixon is generally scorned as a presidential figure, his actions in the environmental realm appear, by most accounts, to have been genuine and thorough and are often overlooked in the historical record.
Source: Cameron Lynch in W&M Env. Law Review, vol. 26 #1, p.219 , Jan 1, 2001

Built the SST; environmental concerns will be met

Q. The two reports on the supersonic transport have been kept secret. Now a group of conservationists and others are in court asking that one of these reports be made public. Will you?

A. The problem here is that when reports are prepared f President, they are supposed to be held in confidence and some of those who participate in the making of those reports have that assurance. Now, with regard to the SST, I have satisfied myself, after long deliberation and considering both of reports, that the arguments with regard to the environment could be met, that this prototype should be built. What is involved here is not just 150,000 jobs which will be lost if we don't build it; but what is lost here is the fact that the U been first in the world in commercial aviation from the time of the Wright brothers, decides not just to be second but not even to show. I think the US should build it, and I believe that we can answer the arguments of the conservationists

Source: The President's News Conference (APP#454) , Dec 10, 1970

Establish the Environmental Protection Agency

Our national government today is not structured to make a coordinated attack on the pollutants which debase the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the land that grows our food. Indeed, the present governmental structure for dealing with environmental pollution often defies effective and concerted action. Despite its complexity, for pollution control purposes the environment must be perceived as a single, interrelated system. Present assignments of departmental responsibiliti reflect this interrelatedness.
Source: Message to Congress to Establish the EPA (APP#215) , Jul 9, 1970

Make peace with nature; restore nature to its natural state

In the year 1980, will the President look back on a decade in which 70% of our people lived in metropolitan areas choked by traffic, suffocated by smog, poisoned by water, deafened by noise, and terrorized by crime? The great question of the 1970s is, shall we surrender to our surroundings, or shall we make our peace with nature and begin to make reparations for the damage we have done to our air, to our land, and to our water?

Restoring nature to its natural state is a cause beyond party and beyond factions. It has become a common cause of all the people of this country. It is a cause of particular concern to young Americans, because they more than we will reap the grim consequences of our failure to act on programs which are needed now if we are to prevent disaster later. Clean air, clean water, open spaces-these should once again be the birthright of every American. If we act now, they can be.

Source: Pres. Nixon's 1970 State of the Union message to Congress , Jan 22, 1970

$10 billion for nationwide clean water program

We still think of air as free. But clean air is not free, and neither is clean water. The price tag on pollution control is high. Through our years of past carelessness we incurred a debt to nature, and now that debt is being called. The program I shall propose to Congress will be the most comprehensive and costly program in this field in America's history.

It is not a program for just one year. A year's plan in this field is no plan at all. This is a time to look ahead not a year, but 5 years or 10 years--whatever time is required to do the job. I shall propose to this Congress a $10 billion nationwide clean waters program to put modern municipal waste treatment plants in every place in America where they are needed to make our waters clean again, and do it now. We have the industrial capacity, if we begin now, to build them all within 5 years. This program will get them built within 5 years.

Source: Pres. Nixon's 1970 State of the Union message to Congress , Jan 22, 1970

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Barack Obama(D,2009-2017)
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George Bush Sr.(R,1989-1993)
Ronald Reagan(R,1981-1989)
Jimmy Carter(D,1977-1981)
Gerald Ford(R,1974-1977)
Richard Nixon(R,1969-1974)
Lyndon Johnson(D,1963-1969)
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Page last updated: Feb 22, 2022