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Earth Day 1997 -- Accomplishments

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Council on Environmental Quality

Protecting the Environment
President Clinton and Vice President Gore

"I want an America in the year 2000 where no child should have to live near a toxic waste dump, where no parent should have to worry about the safety of a child's glass of water, and no neighborhood should be put in harm's way by pollution from a nearby factory."

- President Clinton, 8/28/96

During the last generation, we made great progress in protecting the environment. We now have cleaner, safer air and water. We have cut lead levels in our children's blood by 70%, and toxic emissions from factories by half. But a third of us still breathe air that endangers our health, and in too many communities, the water is not safe to drink. President Clinton and Vice President Gore are committed to common sense reforms to environmental programs and are determined to block attempts to roll back safeguards for our families' food, water and air.


Ensuring Public Health

  • Community Right to Know: Provided communities with access to more information about chemicals released into their air and water. Issued a Pollution Disclosure Executive Order requiring additional industries to inform the public about pollution. Nearly doubled the number of chemicals that industry must report to communities.

  • Safe Drinking Water: Signed legislation to strengthen the Safe Drinking Water Act and ensure that our families have healthy, clean tap water. Required drinking water systems to test for and eliminate dangerous contaminants such as cryptosporidium, which in 1993 killed 100 and sickened 400,000 in Milwaukee.

  • Toxic Waste Clean-ups: Completed as many toxic waste clean-ups in three years as were completed in the previous 12. Accelerated cleanup of toxic waste dumps by 20% and significantly reduced cost. At Department of Energy sites, clean-up is underway at 744 former nuclear facilities, compared to 68 cleaned up in the previous administration.

  • Attempts to Roll Back Protections: Blocked Republican Congressional attempts to roll- back 25 years of environment and public health protections. Vetoed a budget that cut EPA enforcement and Superfund toxic waste clean-ups by 25%. Blocked passage of lobbyist-written bill to dismantle the Clean Water Act.

  • Pesticides and Food Safety: Signed new food safety law -- based on principles set forth by the President four years ago -- to strengthen standards for pesticides in food, including special safeguards for children. Canceled dozens of hazardous pesticides while moving safer substitutes into the market more quickly.

  • Clean Air: Made the air we breathe cleaner by issuing new standards to cut toxic pollution from chemical plants by 90% and dangerous incinerator emissions by 98%.

  • Clean Water: Blocked the lobbyist-written bill to roll back the Clean Water Act. The Clean Water Act keeps billions of pounds of toxic pollutants and sewage out of our rivers, lakes and streams.

Protecting Our Natural Resources

  • American Heritage Rivers: Announced initiative to designate ten American Heritage Rivers this year to enhance our citizens' enjoyment of the historic, cultural, recreational, economic and environmental value of our rivers and to protect the health of our communities.

  • Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument: Created a new national monument protecting 1.7 million acres of spectacular red rock canyonlands, artifacts from three ancient cultures, and the most remote site in the lower 48 states.

  • National Parks: Signed legislation that creates or improves almost 120 national parks, trails, rivers, and historical sites. Created largest park in lower the 48 states with California Desert Protection Act. Blocked Republican attempts to close national parks.

  • Everglades Restoration: Implementing bold new Everglades plan, committing $1.5 billion over seven years to help restore the Everglades and ensure safe, clean water for south Florida.

  • Farm Conservation: Proposed and signed into law Farm Bill that authorizes $2.2 billion in additional funding for conservation programs such as the Conservation Reserve and Wetlands Reserve.

  • Yellowstone: Reached agreement to halt massive gold mine three miles outside Yellowstone National Park, protecting the area from toxic runoff and other threats.

  • Arctic Refuge: Vetoed a Republican Congressional bill that would have opened the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling.

  • Endangered Species Protection: Completed 190 Habitat Conservation Plans (HCPs) covering 4.4 million acres of public and private land across the country, compared to 14 before we took office. HCPs are voluntary agreements to protect open space and wildlife while giving landowners the certainty they need effectively to manage their land.

Common Sense Environmental Reforms

  • Recycling: Issued an Executive Order to jump-start the market for recycled goods.

  • Reinventing Environmental Regulation: Created new ways to achieve greater environmental results at less cost: administrative reforms at EPA alone have eliminated more than 15 million hours of paperwork for businesses and communities -- the equivalent of a quarter-million work weeks for the private sector.

  • Environmental Technology: Helping American businesses compete more effectively in the fast-growing global market while creating jobs for American workers.

  • Revitalizing Communities: Accelerated the cleanup of brownfields -- abandoned, contaminated urban property -- clearing the way for local redevelopment while protecting green areas outside our cities. Proposed targeted tax incentive for investors who purchase and clean up old waste sites in communities across the country.

Protecting the Global Environment

  • Climate Change: Entered into 119 agreements with electric utilities to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases. These voluntary agreements represent real reductions of greenhouse gases through many different actions including efficiency measures, forestry initiatives and electricity generation from renewable energy.

  • Phaseout of Persistent Pollutants: Led the way to a worldwide agreement to phase out the use of 12 dangerous, persistent organic pollutants such as PCBs and DDT.


President Clinton will continue to support policies that protect our health and natural resources while making common sense reforms to environmental programs by:

  • Recognizing and restoring outstanding stretches of America's rivers by selecting ten American Heritage Rivers this year.

  • Expanding community right-to-know laws and challenging communities to use the information to work with business to cut pollution.

  • Cleaning up two-thirds of Superfund sites by 2000 -- 500 more in four years. Challenging Congress to provide true reform of the Superfund program and to drop proposals to force taxpayers to pick up the tab to clean up toxic waste.

  • Getting tough on criminal polluters by strengthening penalties for the worst environmental criminals and ensuring that courts can secure polluters' assets in order to restore the communities they victimize.

  • Protecting the global environment from climate change by negotiating a global accord to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

  • Challenging Congress to pass the President's transportation bill with a 30% increase for congestion and air quality improvements, mass transit, and support for scenic byways and recreational trails.
  • Challenging Congress to provide true reform of the Endangered Species Act to strengthen, not roll back, species protection.

  • Dramatically reducing paperwork and replacing one-size-fits-all regulations with result-focused programs.

  • Challenging Congress to re-examine and reverse those policies that would endanger our health and safety by weakening programs such as safe drinking water and clean air.

  • Continuing to work with state and community leaders and businesses to find better ways to protect our natural resources and provide economic opportunities.

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