President Johnson Calls for Clean Air 1966 US Senate Committee on Public Works Film Report No. 2





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Published on Mar 10, 2012

In January 1966, President Johnson asked Congress to pass the Air Quality Act of 1967
Then on its passage, President Johnson's (partial) Remarks Upon Signing the Air Quality Act of 1967 on November 21, 1967: I would like to begin this morning by reading you a little weather report: "... dirty water and black snow pour from the dismal air to ...the putrid slush that waits for them below." Now that is not a description of Boston, Chicago, New York, or even Washington, D.C. It is from Dante's "Inferno," a 600-yearold vision of damnation. But doesn't it sound familiar? Isn't it a forecast that fits almost any large American city today? I think those like Secretary Gardner and Senator Muskie, and all you Members of the Congress and the Cabinet who have worked with this subject would agree with that. Don't we really risk our own damnation every day by destroying the air that gives us life? I think we do. We have done it with our science, our industry, and our progress. Above all, we have really done it with our own carelessness--our own continued indifference and our own repeated negligence. Contaminated air began in this country as a big-city problem. But in just a few years, the gray pall of pollution has spread throughout the Nation. Today its threat hangs everywhere--and it is still spreading. Today we are pouring at least 130 million tons of poison into the air each year. That is two-thirds of a ton for every man, woman, and child that lives in America. And tomorrow the picture looks even blacker. By 1980, we will have a third more people living in our cities than are living there today. We will have 40 percent more automobiles and trucks. And we will be burning half again as much fuel. That leaves us, according to my evaluation, only one real choice. Either we stop poisoning our air--or we become a nation in gas masks, groping our way through the dying cities and a wilderness of ghost towns that the people have evacuated. We make our choice with the bill that we are going to sign very shortly. It is not the first clean air bill--but it is, I think, the best. I am indebted to all of you who had a part in its fashioning. Congress passed the Clean Air Act in 1963. I signed it to establish the Government's obligation and to establish the Government's authority to act forcefully against air pollution. Two years later we amended that act. Standards were set in 1965 to control automobile pollution. These were important steps. But they were really, as Senator Muskie has reminded us many times, just really baby steps. Today we grow up to our responsibilities. This new Air Quality Act lets us face up to our problem as we have never faced up before. In the next 3 years, it will authorize more funds to combat air pollution--more funds in the next 3 years to combat air pollution--than we have spent on this subject in the entire Nation's history of 180 years. It will give us scientific answers to our most baffling problem: how to get the sulphur out of our fuel--and how to keep it out of our air. It will give Secretary Gardner new power to stop pollution before it chokes our children and before it strangles our elderly--before it drives us into a hospital bed. It will help our States fight pollution in the only practical way--by regional airshed controls--by giving the Federal Government standby power to intervene if and when States rights do not always function efficiently. It will help our States to control the number one source of pollution--our automobiles. But for all that it will do, the Air Quality Act will never end pollution. It is a law--and not a magic wand to wave that will cleanse our skies. It is a law whose ultimate power and final effectiveness really rests out there with the people of this land--on our seeing the damnation that awaits us if the people do not act responsibly to avoid it and to curb it. For President Johnson's complete signing remarks, go to http://www.lbjlib.utexas.edu/johnson/.... This clip is from the 1966 film, Ill Winds on a Sunny Day, one of two unique films prepared as reports of the Sub-committee on Air and Water Pollution of the Senate Committee on Public Works of the 88th Congress at the behest of the Chairman, Senator Edmund Muskie (D -Maine). Both films were produced under the guidance of Muskie's Subcommittee based on staff studies on air and water pollution. This film is narrated by James Garner. The film on water pollution, titled Troubled Waters, was narrated by Henry Fonda. It is also posted to my YouTube channel. For more on the history of the Clean Air Act, by Senator Muskie, go to http://www.cleanairtrust.org/nepa2cer... . The original film is available at the US National Archives in College Park, Maryland.

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