Historical Highlights

The First Earth Day

April 22, 1970
The First Earth Day Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
Peter Kyros of Maine is among the approximately 20 graduates of the United States Naval Academy to serve in the House of Representatives.
On this date, celebrations marking the inaugural Earth Day altered the House legislative calendar. With popular sentiment to protect the environment sweeping the nation, many Members of Congress scheduled Earth Day commemorative events in their districts. The House changed its schedule and recessed on Tuesday, April 21, 1970, to reconvene on Thursday April 23, 1970, permitting most Members to return home. On April 22, however, the Subcommittee on Public Health and Welfare of the House Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce (predecessor of the present day Energy and Commerce Committee) met in Washington and unanimously approved a bill "to reduce air pollution by providing" stricter emissions guidelines, particularly for motor vehicles, and enforcement standards. Representative Peter Kyros of Maine declared that the new legislation “would put the Federal Government in the permanent business of providing clean air.” Later in the year, Congress amended the Clean Air Act to reduce emissions from new automobiles and to provide the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) greater enforcement powers. Congress also passed the Water Quality Improvement Act which made petroleum companies responsible for the cost of an oil spill clean up and restricted other forms of water pollution.

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