Chairman Boxer spoke today on the Senate floor to recognize the 40th anniversary of Earth Day. Below is the full text of Chairman Boxer's remarks as prepared for delivery:
April 22 is Earth Day. It has been 40 years since Senator Gaylord Nelson first advocated setting aside a national day to focus on the environment.
We have learned a lot in those 40 years - today we know that addressing the environmental challenges of the past has not just been good for our air, our water, and the health of our families - it has been good for business and our economy, too. And when we step up to the environmental challenges of today, we will create jobs for American workers, build new businesses and whole new industries here at home, and set America on a course for global economic leadership and prosperity for the future.
Forty years ago, America faced an environmental crossroads.
In 1969, the Cuyahoga River in Ohio caught fire. Swaths of the Great Lakes were lifeless "dead zones." Air in our cities was increasingly unhealthy to breathe. And the beaches of Santa Barbara, California, were coated in gooey black oil, the result of a blowout at the Union Oil Company drilling platform offshore. Hundreds of thousands of gallons of sticky, toxic crude oil washed ashore along 35 miles of California's coastline, killing birds and fish and marine mammals, and threatening the fishing and recreation economies of the California coast.
It was on a plane flying north after seeing the devastation of that awful Santa Barbara spill that Senator Gaylord Nelson was inspired to introduce a bill designating April 22 as a national day to celebrate the earth. Twenty-million Americans rallied to mark the first Earth Day the following year, in April 1970.
In the years immediately following that first Earth Day, many of our landmark environmental laws were passed - the Environmental Protection Agency opened its doors in November of 1970, the Clean Water Act became law in 1972, the Safe Drinking Water Act in 1974, and the Toxic Substances Control Act in 1976.
Those laws, and the others we have put in place since then, have brought us dramatic improvements in the air we breathe and the water we drink. They have also brought great benefits to our economy.
From the beginning, the connection has been clear: Strong protections for our air, our water, and our health, have gone hand in hand with job creation and strong economic growth.
In 1970, America's gross domestic product was about $4.26 trillion (in 2005 dollars). In 2009, our GDP was estimated at $12.9 trillion. In other words, our economy has grown three-fold while our air and water have gotten cleaner and our families have gotten healthier. Today, California's coastal economy generates $23 billion in GDP and almost 390,000 tourism, recreation, and fishing jobs.
Our history shows us that environmental protection is good for the economy.
Take lead. Lead is a neurotoxin that damages the developing brains of infants and children. Between 1976 and 1991, leaded gasoline - a principal source of toxic lead in the environment - was essentially phased out. As a result, the IQ's of preschool children in the mid 1990s were between two and five points higher than a comparable group from the mid 1970s.
Higher intelligence means those children will be more productive and earn more when they enter the workforce, and researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate the benefits to each year's class of two year olds, and to the economy, add up to $100 billion to $300 billion over their lifetimes.
Today, we have a tremendous opportunity before us in clean energy. When we move forward to address the challenge of climate change, we will create millions of jobs and protect our children from dangerous carbon pollution. Most importantly, clean energy will move us away from our dangerous dependence on foreign oil - which is costing us a billion dollars a day and making our country less secure.
America should be the leader in creating clean energy technologies that are made in America and work for America.
It will mean manufacturing jobs for people who build solar panels and wind turbines; it will mean jobs for salespeople who will have a world-wide market for these American made exports.
It will mean jobs for engineers, office workers, construction workers, and transportation workers too.
But today, other countries are moving quickly to take advantage of the enormous opportunities to manufacture and sell the solar, wind, geothermal and other clean energy technologies that will power the world in the coming decades.
Venture capitalists tell us that when we pass clean energy and climate legislation, it will unleash a wave of private investment that will dwarf the capital that poured into high tech and biotech combined. That means new businesses, new industries, and millions of new jobs for American workers.
Colleagues on both sides of the aisle are working on legislation to step up to the clean energy and climate challenge, building on the work we have done in the Environment and Public Works Committee. I look forward to working with them as this process moves forward.
This Earth Day, we have an unprecedented opportunity to reinvigorate our economy, create jobs, and put America on a new course to recovery and prosperity. Let's remember the lessons of the past and seize this opportunity.
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