THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESIDENT CLINTON AND VICE PRESIDENT GORE: PROTECTING OUR ENVIRONMENT, NOT SPECIAL INTERESTS October 30, 1999
Today, in his weekly radio address, President Clinton will announce three executive actions to protect public health and environment: a new rule strengthening the public's right to know about highly toxic chemicals released to the environment; the protection of 14,000 protected acres in the fragile California Desert; and a new agreement to preserve New Mexico's spectacular Baca Ranch. The President also will call on Congress to fund his environmental budget priorities, including the historic Lands Legacy initiative, and to drop anti-environmental riders that would allow oil companies and other special interests to profit at the expense of public lands.
Protecting Communities Against Toxic Risks. One powerful tool against pollution is information -- letting people know what's being put in their water and air. The Clinton Administration has strengthened the public's right to know about chemical risks by expanding the number of industries required to report toxic releases to air, water, and land, and by nearly doubling the number of chemicals subject to reporting. Under a rule announced last year by the President, most American households now receive regular reports from their water utilities telling them whether their drinking water meets federal health standards -- and if not, why not. And a new partnership with the chemical industry and the environmental community will for the first time provide complete data on the potential health effects of the 2,800 most widely used chemicals. In the decade since the public's right to know was established, industry's reported toxic releases have fallen nearly 50 percent.
Today, the President will announce a new step further expanding the public's right to know. The new Environmental Protection Agency rule establishes or strengthens reporting requirements for 27 "persistent bioaccumulative toxics," including mercury, dioxin, and PCBs. These chemicals are especially risky because they do not break down easily. Instead, they build up in the environment and may be passed up the food chain, just as the pesticide DDT threatened bald eagles and other birds by accumulating in their eggs. Beginning January 1, 2000:
Preserving Our Lands Legacy. The Clinton Administration has made preserving America's natural heritage a top priority. Over the past seven years, nearly 150 million acres of public and private lands, from the red-rock canyons of Utah to the Florida Everglades, have been protected or enhanced. Two weeks ago, the President directed the Forest Service to protect more than 40 million acres of roadless areas in our national forests. Today, the President will announce two new efforts to preserve America's most treasured places.
To mark the fifth anniversary of the California Desert Act, the President will announce federal acquisition of an additional 14,000 acres within the Joshua Tree National Park -- lands that otherwise might be developed. These lands are being donated by the nonprofit Wildlands Conservancy, becoming part of a multimillion-acre network of federally protected lands in the Mojave and Colorado Deserts in Southern California, a spectacular but fragile landscape rich with history and diverse wildlife, including the endangered desert tortoise.
The President also will announce completion of a final purchase agreement to preserve New Mexico's spectacular Baca Ranch. Under the agreement, the Forest Service will acquire the 95,000-acre ranch in the Jemez Mountains west of Santa Fe for a purchase price of $101 million. The ranch contains the world-renowned Valles Caldera, the collapsed crater of an ancient volcano, and sustains one of the nation's largest herds of wild elk. Under proposed bipartisan legislation authorizing the acquisition, the ranch would continue to be operated in a way that demonstrates conservation and sustainable land use practices, while providing new recreational opportunities to the public consistent with those practices. The President is working closely with Congress to secure the necessary authorization and funding before the agreement expires on April 30, 2000.
Protecting Our Environment, Not Special Interests. Once again, Congress is launching a stealth attack on the environment, underfunding key environmental priorities and loading up budget bills with legislative riders that would roll back protections already in place.
In his balanced budget for this year, President Clinton proposed a $1 billion Lands Legacy to preserve natural treasures and to help communities protect farms, forests, urban parks and other local green spaces. But the Interior budget bill passed by Congress provides only a third of the funding requested by the President, jeopardizing efforts to protect the Everglades, Civil War battlefields, and the Mojave Desert, and depriving communities of the help they need to fight sprawl and save open space.
In addition, anti-environmental riders buried in the Interior budget bill that would reward special interests at the expensive of public lands. Among other things, they would:
The President will again call on Congress to send him a clean bill that adequately funds his environmental budget priorities, including the Lands Legacy initiative.