Press Release of U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer

For Immediate Release:
April 22, 2004  
Contact:
Washington D.C. Office (202) 224-3553

Statement On Earth Day  

On April 22, 1970, more than 20 million Americans celebrated the first Earth Day by participating in a grassroots effort to inspire a national commitment to protect and promote a clean environment.

That same year, building on the momentum of Earth Day and pressure from the increasingly environmentally aware electorate, Congress established the Environmental Protection Agency, whose sole mission is to protect public health and the environment.

We also made tremendous strides in environmental policy following the first Earth Day. We passed the historic Clean Air Act to limit air pollutants like carbon monoxide, ozone, and lead, which cause harm to public health and the environment.

Just two years later, public concern for pollution in our oceans, lakes, and rivers led to the enactment of the Clean Water Act. This groundbreaking legislation established pollution control programs and set water quality standards that would serve as the basis for all future water pollution laws in the United States.

Over the years, Congress went on to pass many other significant environmental laws, including the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the Superfund Law, which ensured that polluters-not taxpayers-pay for toxic spills and clean-ups.

But today, 34 years after the first Earth Day, our environment is under assault. Since this Administration took office three years ago, they have worked to roll back more than 350 laws and regulations that protect our public health and environment.

Many of these rollbacks have gone unnoticed-like steps to reduce mining regulations and protections for national parks and wetlands. Others rollbacks have been more public and led to fierce battles between the Administration and Congress-like the debate over drilling in the Artic National Wildlife Refuge, arsenic in drinking water, and MTBE. But there is one common denominator for all of these rollbacks; the Administration has time and again put special interests above the interests of public health.

Perhaps no place is this clearer than the Administration's approach to the Superfund program. Congress created Superfund in 1980, which required that oil, chemical, and other companies pay a fee to the Superfund Trust Fund to help pay for toxic cleanups. But that fee expired in 1995, and this year is the first year there are no polluter fees in the Superfund Trust. President Bush has refused to support the Boxer-Chafee bipartisan legislation to reinstate the polluter-pays fee, and in doing so he has put polluters ahead of the 70 million Americans-and the 10 million children-who live within four miles of a Superfund site.

Making the American people bear the burden of cleaning up a company's environmental contamination is wrong. The polluters should pay, not the American taxpayer.

Now is not the time to be taking steps backward from our environmental policy. We face new threats to our environment and public health each day, and we must continue to address those threats, or risk doing irreparable damage to our planet.

Former President Gerald Ford once said, "The earth will continue to regenerate its life source only as long as we and all the peoples of the world do our part to conserve its natural resources."

This Earth Day, I hope that all Americans will do their part by participating in a clean-up program or Earth Day activity. I would encourage Californians to visit the Earth Day feature on my Senate website, http://boxer.senate.gov, which lists more than one hundred Earth Day events in communities throughout California, a history of Earth Day, and some fascinating facts about our Earth and its environment.

Take the time to teach your children about Earth Day. Teach them about conservation and having respect for the environment that sustains all life.

Our children and grandchildren deserve an Earth they can walk barefoot on, oceans they can swim freely in, and pure air they can breathe in deeply. They deserve to know that our national parks and monuments will still be there one day to share with their own children. Now is the time to renew our commitment to the environment.