Where were you on December 2, 1970?

29 Nov 2010

Most of us don’t remember that 1970 was a landmark year for the environmental movement and environmental legislation. 

On January 1, 1970, President Nixon signed the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) into law to ”declare a national policy which will encourage productive and enjoyable harmony between man and his environment.”

The first Earth Day was on April 22, 1970, and that summer, President Nixon called for a strong, independent Environmental Protection Agency to:

  • Establish and enforce environmental protection standards.
  • Conduct environmental research.
  • Provide assistance to others combatting environmental pollution.
  • Assist the CEQ in developing and recommending to the President new policies for environmental protection.

It seems beyond belief now, but Nixon appointed a 38-year-old Assistant Attorney General, William D. Ruckelshaus, who was confirmed on December 1st, as the first head of the EPA, when Senator Edmund Muskie of Maine said “I hope that you become known as Mr. Clean.”  On December 2nd, the EPA opened its doors. 

The Year of the Environment came to an end with the signing of the Clean Air Act (CAA) of 1970 on December 31st.

The President’s charge to the first EPA Administrator was to treat “air pollution, water pollution and solid wastes as different forms of a single problem.”  This challenge lives on today.

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