Utilities cut support for climate-change deniers.
This summer marked the 40th anniversary of a pivotal event in the environmental movement. On June 22, 1969, the oily surface of the Cuyahoga River caught fire, drawing national attention to the plight of America’s lakes and rivers.
It wasn’t the first time the Cuyahoga caught fire, but the timing of the blaze—two years after the summer of love, in the middle of the Vietnam War, and just a few months into President Richard Nixon’s first term—turned the Cuyahoga fire into a catalyst for change. It galvanized public opinion on environmental issues, inspired Nixon to propose the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1970, and drove Congress to enact the Clean Water Act in 1972.
However, clean water standards didn’t begin with the Cuyahoga River fire, the EPA or the Clean Water Act. A series of common-law nuisance lawsuits, combined with a patchwork of state laws and (weak) federal statutes, preceded the comprehensive legislation that emerged from the smoke of the Cuyahoga.