Richard Nixon’s Other Legacy

Richard Nixon departed the White House in ignominy after resigning the presidency on August 9, 1974. The Watergate scandal had finally done him in. (Even today, a political scandal is labeled “-gate.)

Since Nixon’s leaving, the Electoral College has given the U.S. several Republican presidents. With an exception or maybe two, each was lazier and oversaw an administration more corrupt than his predecessor.

But I digress.

President Nixon signed into law the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) on New Year’s Day, 1970.

In his State of the Union Address on January 22, the President stated his goal to make “the 1970s a historic period when, by conscious choice, [we] transform our land into what we want it to become.” In February, he announced a 37-point environmental action program, with special emphasis given to strengthening federal programs for dealing with water and air pollution.

Spring 1970 saw the first Earth Day.

In July that year, concerned that having the mandates of NEPA enforced by various existing agencies would be cumbersome and ineffective, Nixon issued an Executive Order creating the Environmental Protection Agency.

The E.P.A. opened December 2, 1970 in a small office suite about a mile northwest from the White House.

  • The Clean Air Act, signed by President Nixon on the last day of 1970, tasked the E.P.A. with creating and enforcing regulations to protect people from airborne pollution.
  • Nixon signed the Marine Mammal Protection Act in 1972. A few days later, he put his signature on the Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act. Also known as the Ocean Dumping Act, it regulates the dumping of anything into the ocean that would harm human health or the marine environment.
  • The Endangered Species Act was enacted into law in 1973.
  • Nixon proposed the Safe Drinking Water Act. Congress passed it in 1974, during his presidency. It was signed by his successor, Gerald Ford.

Fifty years later, the E.P.A. is hanging on until the new president is inaugurated. The current occupant of the White House is trying to wreak as much destruction as possible before becoming the ex-occupant.

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