Nixon legacy includes environmental laws

dwheeler at dwheeler at
Thu Dec 31 23:57:06 EST 1998

The following article appeared in The Oregonian on Dec. 28, 1998, p A6

Nixon legacy includes a long string of environmental laws

By DAVE HOGAN, of The Oregonian staff

	WASHINGTON -- Richard Nixon is not widely considered one of the great
environmental presidents in American history, yet the Endangered Species Act
and a string of other significant environmental laws were enacted during his
administration. 	In fact, during his 5.5 years in office, Nixon helped
enact an unmatched series of environmental laws by the time he resigned, said
Lee Talbot, professor of environmental science at George Mason University. 
“No president since or before, except maybe Teddy Roosevelt, has been willing
to put as much political muscle into environment,” said Talbot, who was chief
scientist for Nixon’s Council on Environmental Quality in the 1970s and
helped write the language of the Endangered Species Act. Talbot also worked
at the council during President Carter’s administration.	Nixon started
out opposing environmental laws, although he was elected to the White House
at a time of increasing public support for environmental protection. In the
late 1960s and early 1970s, Americans began to express much more concern
about the Earth as television showed them environmental catastrophes such as
oil spills in the oceans, a polluted Ohio River on fire, and air pollution in
Los Angeles.  In 1969, the year Nixon took office, he opposed the legislation
that became the National Environmental Policy Act. The law required
environmental impact statements for projects proposed by federal agencies. 
When Congress voted to pass the act with bipartisan support despite Nixon’s
opposition, the president realized something that the House and Senate had
already learned: Protecting the environment was popular. Nixon signed the
legislation in early 1970 and said it was the first symbolic act of what he
was calling “the environmental decade.”    “I think it’s important to note
that it wasn’t that President Nixon was an environmental president who set
out to be one or that he cared himself. I don’t think he did,” Talbot said.
“But he saw it as a politically beneficial area.”	 From 1970 to 1972,
Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency and signed laws including
the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
He also signed executive orders and international agreements on environmental
issues.      In early 1973, Washington, D.C., was the site of an
international conference on endangered species, a project that Talbot had
been working on since 1961. The meeting produced the Convention on
International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. The United
States needed new legislation to meet some of the agreement’s provisions, and
that was part of what led to the Endangered Species Act, Talbot said.	  
Nixon had called for stronger wildlife protection in his State of the Union
speech in 1973, and he signed the species legislation into law in December
1973.	 By the time Nixon resigned in 1974, his administration had had a
hand in a stack of environmental laws, executive orders and international
agreements that totaled “more than any other administration in history,”
Talbot said.	    “We could never have done it had the president not been
willing to go along,” Talbot said.

Poster's comment: To me it seems that linking Nixon and environmental laws is
an oxymoron. But even the devil should have his due, and the article does
point out what was passed during Nixon's tenure. But in fairness, I think
many laws were passed *in spite of* Nixon than with his blessing.

Posted as a courtesy by
Daniel B. Wheeler

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