Tuesday, August 10, 2004

If you care about the environment and its impact on your health you might be interested in the following excerpt from the Lou Dobbs tonight program, aired August 4, 2004 - 18:00   ET.  The topic is Robert F. Kennedy Jr's book Crimes Against Nature.  Read an excerpt from the book at http://www.commondreams.org/views03/1120-01.htm

CNN Anchor Kitty Pilgrim filled in for Lou Dobbs. 




PILGRIM: Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. has written a new book lambasting the Bush White House. It accuses the administration of jeopardizing our health, national security and democracy all for greed.

The new book is called "Crimes Against Nature: How George Bush and His Corporate Pals are Plundering the Country and Hijacking our Democracy." Robert Kennedy is one of the nation's most prominent environmental advocates and he joins me now. Thanks very much for joining us.


PILGRIM: These are very harsh words and yet you maintain that this is not a political book.

KENNEDY: I've been disciplined over 20 years as an environmental advocate about being nonpartisan and bipartisan. I don't believe that there's such thing as Republican or Democratic children. I've supported both Republican and Democratic candidates with strong environmental records.

But in this case, we have never seen anything like this in our history, where we have a concerted, disciplined assault on 30 years of environmental legislation that threatens now to dismantle, to eviscerate all of our federal environmental laws.

It's a stealth attack that's not being covered by the media. It's deliberately a stealth attack because the President has seen the poll numbers. His own pollster warned him that this radical agenda would be unpopular, not only in the Democratic Party but equally so within the rank and file of the Republican Party.

The White House has put the polluters in charge of virtually all the government agencies that are supposed to enforce our environmental loss.

PILGRIM: By polluters you mean people who have previously worked for corporations?

KENNEDY: Well, look, the second-in-command of the EPA is a Monsanto lobbyist. The head of the Forest Service is a timber industry lobbyist. The head of Public Lands is a mining industry lobbyist. The head of the Air Division at EPA is a utility lobbyist who has done nothing but represent polluters for his entire career.

These are people who did not enter government service for the public interest. They are at work dismantling and subverting the very laws that they are charged now with enforcing.

PILGRIM: So, do you think people who worked in these industries should be precluded from working in government in these areas?

KENNEDY: No, of course not. I don't think that there's anything wrong with having people who work for corporations be in power. But if the corporations are actually dictating our federal policy -- which is happening with this administration -- I'll give you an example with mercury.

In the state of Connecticut it's now unsafe to eat any fresh water fish in the state. The same is true in 17 other states. That mercury is coming from 1100 power plants primarily that are discharging it illegally.

The Clinton administration proposed a regulation that would force them to clean up within 3.5 years. It would have cost them -- we can do it easily -- it costs less than 1 percent of the revenues to the plants. But this is an industry that gave $100 million to the Bush administration, and six weeks ago the Bush administration announced that it was abandoning those regulations and adopting, instead, regulations that would require them never to clean up.

The new regulations were written by Latham & Watkins, a law firm for the utilities that were being prosecuted for breaking the law. The head of the chief lobbyists of that law firm is now the head of the Air Division at EPA.

PILGRIM: It's a compelling argument and you make it well. But isn't it incumbent on Congress to pass a legislation when it's proposed? It seems to have lagged in Congress.

KENNEDY: No. We have strong laws on the books. We have very good regulations and very good laws in this country to protect the environment. But those laws are being subverted. The enforcement has virtually stopped throughout the administration because the enforcement divisions have been de-funded. So, there's no money to enforce these laws. Then the people who are supposed to be enforcing the laws are the polluters from the companies that are being prosecuted.

And so, you've basically got a situation where we have very strong laws but the whole government is ignoring them and allowing criminals to flourish in our marketplace when we should be prosecuting them.

PILGRIM: You made this a lifetime...

KENNEDY: It's like if you put a bank robber the head of the SEC and who said, "I'm going to turn my back on all bank robbers." That's what's happening. And it's laughable but it actually is happening throughout all these agencies, and, you know, I give hundreds and hundreds of examples of this in the book.

PILGRIM: And it's a great book, and it's very compelling. And it is disturbing that some of our environmental issues are languishing and particularly in a campaign year, where distraction is being made over other issues. Great debate over homeland security; great debate over jobs.

Are environmental issues going by the wayside in this campaign year? Are you disturbed with the lack of focus?

KENNEDY: Yes. But this is always a challenge for the environmental movement. Americans care deeply about the environment, both Republicans and Democrats. There's almost no difference in the poll...

PILGRIM: It should be above politics.

KENNEDY: That's right. It should be above politics. And it's very bad for the environment to become the province of a single political party.

The problem is that you have an administration that is deliberately mounting a stealth attack and, you know its own pollster advised them: Frank Luntz advised the President in 2002, "We have to hide this from the American public because it's a radical agenda that is going to be offensive to people within our own party."

Plus you have a media that has been negligent about covering these issues. And actually Paul Krugman did a wonderful article this weekend for "The Sunday Times" in which he showed that the media is covering the fist fight but they're not -- the political fist fight, but there's almost no coverage of the actual positions of the candidates or the outcomes of many of these policies that have been promoted by the Bush administration.

PILGRIM: Well, hopefully through this segment and through your efforts we can draw more detail to this debate. Thank you very much for joining us.

KENNEDY: Thanks for having me.

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