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Friday, February 06, 2004

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. on the Environment

Rolling Stone published Robert Kennedy's devastating critique of the Bush administration's environmental record back in early December -- it was in the very long issue that listed the magazine's choices for top 500 albums of all-time.

With the holidays and the long album list, I was delayed in getting to it and didn't notice a lot of public comment about it. Check that, I recall that the local paper ran it (or something similar) in a Sunday op-ed section, but that was because Kennedy appeared in town to speak at a "festival of faith" conference.

Kennedy is a lawyer for the Natural Resources Defense Council and they've compiled research to backup Kennedy's claims. Kennedy makes a pretty serious charge that could be a major campaign issue -- especially in key swing states:
George W. Bush will go down in history as America's worst environmental president. In a ferocious three-year attack, the Bush administration has initiated more than 200 major rollbacks of America's environmental laws, weakening the protection of our country's air, water, public lands and wildlife.
The lengthy article is full of specific allegations, which I won't repeat here, but I will include just one devastating example of what's gone on these past few years:
Early in the Bush administration, Vice President Cheney had solicited an industry wish list from the United States Energy Association, the lobbying arm for trade associations including the American Petroleum Institute, the National Mining Association, the Nuclear Energy Institute and the Edison Institute. The USEA responded by providing 105 specific recommendations from its members for plundering our natural resources and polluting America's air and water. In a speech to the group in June 2002, Energy Secretary Abraham reported that the administration had already implemented three-quarters of the industry's recommendations and predicted the rest would pass through Congress shortly.

On August 27th, 2002 -- while most of America was heading off for a Labor Day weekend -- the administration announced that it would redefine carbon dioxide, the primary cause of global warming, so that it would no longer be considered a pollutant and would therefore not be subject to regulation under the Clean Air Act. The next day, the White House repealed the act's "new source review" provision, which requires companies to modernize pollution control when they modify their plants.

According to the National Academy of Sciences, the White House rollback will cause 30,000 Americans to die prematurely each year. Although the regulation will probably be reversed in the courts, the damage will have been done, and power utilities such as Southern Co. will escape criminal prosecution. As soon as the new regulations were announced, John Pemberton, chief of staff to the EPA's assistant administrator for air, left the agency to work for Southern. The EPA's congressional office chief also left, to join Southern's lobbying shop, Bracewell, Patterson.
As I've said before, Kerry has a great environmental record -- though I think he should talk about other issues besides ANWR.

Whatever Democrat wins the nomination, in fact, is bound to have a far superior record to Bush on the environment. Emphasizing this issue is also a great way to discourage a significant Green Party candidacy.

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