Green Legislation — Nixon Administration

President Richard Nixon
President Richard Nixon

During President Richard Nixon’s Administration (1696-1974), comprehensive and far-reaching environmental legislation was enacted, American involvement in the Vietnam War ended, and diplomatic relations with the U.S.S.R. and China were improved.

The first Earth Day was held on April 22, 1970.

This is the 3rd and final post in a series about green legislation passed during the administrations of several past presidents and will focus on President Richard Nixon.

National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969 was authored by Washington Senator, Henry M. Jackson, and signed into law by President Richard Nixon on January 1, 1970. The purpose of the Act is included in the preamble:

“To declare national policy which will encourage productive and enjoyable harmony between man and his environment; to promote efforts which will prevent or eliminate damage to the environment and biosphere and stimulate the health and welfare of man; to enrich the understanding of the ecological systems and natural resources important to the Nation…”

NEPA represented the first U.S. national environmental policy. The environmental assessment (EA) and environmental impact statement (EIS) processes were put in place to ensure the environment was considered during federal project decision making.

The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) was created to advise the president on the environment, oversee federal agency adherence to the EA and EIS process, and encourage government-wide coordination on the environment, natural resources, and energy.

Reorganization Plans Nos. 3 and 4 of 1970 – Establish EPA and NOAA

On July 9, 1970, President Richard Nixon submitted to Congress Reorganization Plans Nos. 3 and 4 of 1970. No. 3 established the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) U.S. Environmental Protection Agency LogoU.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Logothus elevating environmental protection to cabinet level status and giving the EPA far-reaching authority. No. 4 created the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) under the Department of Commerce to provide climate forecasts to enhance protection of life and property from natural hazards, monitor the environment, manage fisheries and coastlines, and examine changes in the oceans.

Clean Air Act Extension of 1970

Maine Senator Edmund Muskie played a central role in drafting the Clean Air Act Extension of 1970 which was signed into law by President Richard Nixon on December 1, 1970. The 1970 Act substantially expanded federal clean air mandates. The newly formed EPA was given authority to develop and enforce air quality and pollution regulations.

In addition to stationary (industrial) emissions, mobile (car, truck, and airplane) emissions were regulated for the first time. The 1970 Act included regulation of fuels and fuel additives, noise pollution and abatement, and established specific emission targets and time frames. For instance, car manufacturers were required to reduce emissions for new cars 90% by 1975.

Power PlantRegional air quality standards were replaced by the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). Regulated pollutants included carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, ozone, lead, and particulate matter. Each state was required to develop a plan, subject to EPA approval, to attain and maintain NAAQS, and later provide data demonstrating compliance. States were given until 1975 to meet the new NAAQS. A New Source Review (NSR) program was put in place to ensure new sources of emissions were reviewed prior to construction.

An important provision of the 1970 Act was a citizen’s right to sue, to the extent permitted by the Eleventh Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The Clean Air Act has been amended and expanded several times since 1970.

Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973

On December 28, 1973, President Richard Nixon signed the Endangered Species Act (ESA) into law to be jointly administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries Service.

Bald Eagle in FlightThe ESA expanded efforts to protect imperiled species and actively work towards lessening threats to their survival, on a worldwide basis. The types of species that could be listed were expanded. To address the loss of habitat, a primary reason species become imperiled, the ESA allowed for specific areas to be protected as “critical habitat”.

The import, export, interstate and foreign commerce of listed species were prohibited. Interstate and inter-agency cooperation requirements were covered, as well as international cooperation and conventions. The ESA defined the process for listing a species, developing recovery plans, and delisting—the ultimate goal.


Green Legislation — Roosevelt Administrations

President Theodore Roosevelt - 1904
President Theodore Roosevelt
President Franklin D. Roosevelt - 1933
President Franklin D. Roosevelt

This 2nd of 3 posts looks at green legislation enacted during the presidencies of Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin D. Roosevelt. President Theodore Roosevelt broadened the use of executive power, involved the U.S. in world politics, and expanded the amount of public land under protection. President Franklin D. Roosevelt led the U.S. through the Great Depression and World War II.

Theodore Roosevelt – 26th President (1901-1909)

Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge – Established in 1903

The first national wildlife refuge, Florida’s Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge, was created on March 15, 1903, via an Executive Order signed by President Theodore Roosevelt.

Brown Pelican Flying Over Pelican Island - Photo: Nick Wirwa USFWS

In the late 1800s, bird feathers were in great demand for fashion, which resulted in the Island’s herons, egrets, spoonbills, and pelicans being killed for their feathers. A German immigrant, Paul Kroegel, ornithologist, Frank Chapman, bird advocate, William Dutcher, the American Ornithologist’s Union, and the Florida Audubon Society all contributed to the protection of Pelican Island.

Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge was a forerunner of the National Wildlife Refuge System developed as the result of numerous pieces of legislation.

Antiquities Act of 1906

The Antiquities Act of 1906, signed by President Theodore Roosevelt on June 8, 1906, was the first law to provide legal protection for archaeological sites and artifacts on public land. It required federal agencies to preserve and protect historic, scientific, commemorative, and cultural values of sites and structures on public land.

Muir Woods National Monument - Photo: National Park Service
Muir Woods National Monument

Another feature of the Antiquities Act authorized the President to protect landmarks, structures, and objects of historic or scientific interest by designating them as National Monuments. President Theodore Roosevelt used this privilege to establish the first 18 National Monuments including Muir Woods and the Grand Canyon.

President Theodore Roosevelt is credited with placing 150 million acres of public land under protection in National Parks (5), National Forests (150), Federal Bird Reserves (51), National Game Reserves (4), and National Monuments (18).

Franklin D. Roosevelt – 33rd President (1933-1944)

Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) – 1933-1942

To implement the New Deal’s Emergency Conservation Work (ECW) Act signed into law on March 31, 1933; President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 6101 on April 5, 1933, establishing the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).

The CCC was created to provide jobs for hundreds of thousands of young unmarried men during the Great Depression.

Civilian Conservation Corps Planting Trees in Lolo National Forest, Montana - Photo: U.S. Forest ServiceOver 3 million men participated in the CCC. Their many accomplishments include planting nearly 3 billion trees, constructing 800 parks, erecting 3,470 fire towers, building 97,000 miles of fire roads, and devoting 4,235,000 man-days fighting fires. The CCC improved streams built small dams and completed flood control projects. Under the direction of the Soil Conservation Service, 500 CCC camps worked on soil erosion control to prevent another situation like the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.

Although the original CCC was disbanded in 1942, several new organizations have arisen over the years building on their legacy.

Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic (FD&C) Act of 1938

The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic (FD&C) Act was signed into law on June 25, 1938, by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, giving the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the authority to oversee the safety of food, drugs, and cosmetics. The FD&C replaced the earlier Pure Food and Drug Act, signed by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906.

The purpose of the FD&C Act was to protect the public from unsafe food, phony therapeutic claims for drugs, cosmetics with harmful ingredients, and false advertising.

Woman Reading Food Label - Photo: U.S. FDAThe FD&C Act defined food (which now includes bottled water), drugs, medical devices (ranging from thermometers to implants), food additives (including colorings), dietary supplements, and cosmetics. It required pre-market approval of new drugs and drugs be labeled with adequate directions for safe use. Cosmetics and medical devices came under the control of the FDA. The Wheeler-Lea Act passed in 1938, granted the U.S. Federal Trade Commission the authority to oversee advertising of all products regulated by U.S. FDA, except prescription drugs.

Since its inception, the FD&C Act has been amended numerous times to include requirements for fair packaging and labeling, nutritional labeling, and education, controlled substances, bioterrorism, and has undergone several modernization acts.

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