In these days of ecological gloom and doom, the White House Council on Environmental Quality yesterday released a report intended to chronicle the good news.
The CEQ's annual report to Congress, designed as a retrospective on the past 20 years of environmental regulation, stresses the "very long way" the nation has come since Earth Day of 1970, as chairman Michael R. Deland put it in his letter of transmittal.
Among the successes noted in the 494-page volume are the enactment of a dozen major environmental laws, improved data collection, tougher enforcement, greater international cooperation and heightened sensitivity of American businesses.
The report cites substantial progress in controlling some common air pollutants. But it omits the fact that the authors of the Clean Air Act, passed 20 years ago, expected the progress to have gone further and faster. Nor does it mention that only seven of the hundreds of less common but more toxic chemicals have been regulated.
The international treaty on control of ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) is cited as one of the 40 accords the United States has ratified. But no referrence is made to the years of footdragging by U.S. officials on that threat.
"We're not trying to cover up or wish away these problems," said Tom Super, who coordinated the report. "We emphasized the progress because over time it adds up to something substantial."
Deland, who has resuscitated the CEQ after it languished during the Reagan administration, said at a news conference that in an "ideal world" progress towards correcting ecological problems could have been faster. But he said that the report's findings were "heartening" and should be a source of "confidence and pride" to the American public.
Despite the CEQ's limited resources and staff, Deland said, he had no trouble justifying the $24,000 it cost to publish 4,000 copies of the report.
On the 20th anniversary of CEQ and Earth Day, he said, it is important to "look back and see what happened" and gain perspective on the fruits of legislation. Moreover, he said, the CEQ's report is in great demand by other governments.
Copies are available for $17 from the Government Printing Office.