On Earth Day, Obama says US can lead on climate change

“Every American deserves the cleanest air, the safest water, and unpolluted land, and each person can take steps to protect those precious resources,” Obama said. “When we reduce environmental hazards, especially in our most overburdened and polluted cities and neighborhoods, we prioritize the health of our families, and move towards building the clean energy economy of the 21st century.”

An effort to pass major climate-change legislation in Congress failed last year, leaving the task of reducing the country's greenhouse-gas emissions up to the Environmental Protection Agency, which has come under fire from Republicans and some Democrats. Obama has focused his energy policy agenda on reducing oil imports, ramping up fuel economy standards and relying more heavily on low-carbon sources of electricity like wind, natural gas and nuclear.

Amid efforts by Republicans to block key EPA regulations, Obama promised that the administration would continue to protect public health.

“Federal and local programs will continue to ensure our Nation's clean air and water laws are effective, that our communities are protected from contaminated sites and other pollution, and that our children are safe from chemicals, toxins, and other environmental threats,” Obama said in the proclamation.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, in an Earth Day blog post, called on the public to take action to clean up the environment.

“To continue making progress today, we need to do the same thing our predecessors did 41 years ago: come together and work to make a difference,” Jackson wrote on the EPA’s blog. “There are new and extraordinary ways for you to make a difference. As EPA Administrator, what I want this Earth Day is your help in this important work.”