Those of Us Who Know That America?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s Worth Fighting for Have to Take It Back Now from Those Who Don?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢t by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr Speech delivered at the Sierra Summit 2005 San Francisco, California September 10, 2005 This is the worst environmental president we?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢ve had in American history. There have been over 400 major environmental roll backs that are listed there that have been implemented or proposed by this administration over the past four years as part of a deliberate concerted effort to eviscerate 30 years of environmental law. a stealth attack. The White House has used all kinds of ingenious machinations to try to conceal its radical agenda from the American people including Orwellian rhetoric. When they want to destroy the forests, they call it the Healthy Forest Act. When they wanted to destroy the air, they called it the Clear Skies Bill. But most insidiously, they have put polluters in charge of virtually all the agencies that are supposed to protect Americans from pollution. President Bush appointed as head of the Forest Service a timber industry lobbyist, Mark Rey, probably the most rapacious in history. He put in charge of public lands a mining industry lobbyist, Steven Griles, who believes that public lands are unconstitutional. He put in charge of the air division of the EPA, Jeffrey Holmstead, a utility lobbyist who has represented nothing but the worst air polluters in America. As head of Superfund, a woman whose last job was teaching corporate polluters how to evade Superfund. The second in command of EPA is a Monsanto lobbyist. The New York Times reported a couple of weeks ago we all read that as second in command of CEQ which is in the White House directly advising the president of environmental policy, he put a lobbyist of the American Petroleum Institute whose only job was to read all of the science from all the different federal agencies to make sure they didn?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢t say anything critical, to excise any critical statements about > the oil industry. He was there to lie to the American public, to protect one of the big corporate contributors to this White House. This is true throughout all of the agencies that are supposed to protect Americans from pollution, the Department of Energy, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Commerce which regulates fisheries, the Department of the Interior, EPA of course, and the relevant divisions of the Justice Department. The same thing, all these agencies and sub secretariats, it is the polluters who are now running these agencies. ...news departments have become corporate profit centers, they no longer have any obligation to benefit the public interests, their only obligation is to their shareholders and they fulfill that obligation by increasing viewer ship. How do you do that? not by reporting the news that we need to hear in to make rational decisions in our democracy but rather by entertaining us, by appealing to the prurient interests that all of us have in the reptilian core of our brain for sex and celebrity gossip. So they give us Laci Peterson and Michael Jackson and Kobe Bryant and we?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢re today the best entertained and the least informed people on the face of the earth and this is a real threat to American democracy. ... a gigantic diminution in quality of life...has taken place in this country as a direct result of this president?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s environmental policy that Americans mainly don?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢t know about. I?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢m just going to focus on one industry which is coal burning power plants. ....One out of every four black children in America?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s cities now has asthma. We know that asthma attacks are triggered primary by bad air, by ozone and particulates and we know that the principle source of those materials in our atmosphere are 1,100 coal burning power plants that are burning coal illegally. It?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s been illegal for 17 years. President Clinton?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s administration was prosecuting the worst 75 of those plants but that?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s an industry that donated $48 million to this president during the 2000 cycle and have given $58 million since. One of the first things that Bush did when he came into office was to order the Justice Department and EPA to drop all those lawsuits. The top three enforcers at EPA, Sylvia Lowrance, Bruce Buckheit, Eric Schaeffer, all resigned their jobs in protest. These weren?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢t Democrats, these were people who had served through the Reagan and > Bush administrations, the earlier Bush administration. A top Justice Department official said that this had never happened in American history before where a presidential candidate accepts money, contributions from criminals under indictment or targeted for indictment and then orders those indictments and investigations dropped when he achieves office. Immediately after dropping those lawsuits, the White House went and abolished the New Source Rule which was the heart and soul, the central provision of the Clean Air Act. That rule is the rule that required those plants to clean up 17 years ago and it?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s the fundamental compromise that allowed the passage of the Clean Air Act. If you go to EPA?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s website today, you will see that that decision alone, that single decision, this is EPA?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s website, kills 18,000 Americans every single year. Six times the number of people that were killed by the World Trade Center attack. This should be on the front page of every newspaper in this country every single day and yet you?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢re not reading about it in the American press. A couple of months ago EPA announced that in 19 states it is now unsafe to eat any freshwater fish in the state for mercury contamination. We know where the mercury is coming from, those same coal burning power plants. In 48 states at least some of the fish are unsafe to eat. In fact, the only two states where all of the fish are still safe to eat are Alaska and Wyoming where republican controlled legislatures have refused to appropriate the money to test the fish. In all of the other states at least some, most or all of the fish are unsafe to eat. We know a lot about mercury we didn?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢t know a few years ago. We know for example, that one out of every six, now one out of every three American women have so much mercury in her womb that her children are at risk for a grim inventory of diseases, autism, blindness, mental retardation, heart, liver, kidney disease. Well, we have 630,000 children who are born in America every year who have been exposed to dangerous levels of mercury in their mother?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s wombs. President Clinton recognizing the gravity of this national health epidemic reclassified mercury as a hazardous pollutant under the Clean Air Act. That triggered the requirement that all of those companies remove 90 percent of the mercury within three and a half years. It would have cost less than one percent of plant revenue, a great deal for the American people. We have the technology, it exists, we already require it in states like Massachusetts. But it still meant billions of dollars for that industry and that?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s the industry that gave $100 million to this president and about 12 weeks ago the White House announced that it was abolishing the Clinton era rules and substituting instead rules that were written by utility industry lobbyists that will allow those companies to never have to clean up the mercury. The rules say in their face that they have to clean up 70 percent within 15 years which by itself is outrageous but in fact, the utility lawyers who wrote those rules wrote so many loopholes into them that the utilities will be able to challenge them probably successfully and certainly forever and they will never have to clean up any additional mercury. We?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢re living in a science fiction nightmare today in the United States of America where my children and the children of millions of Americans who have asthmatic kids are bringing children into a world where the air is too poisonous for them to breathe. Where my children and the children of most Americans can now no longer safely engage in the seminal primal activity of American youth which is to go fishing with their father and mother and to come home and eat the fish because somebody gave money to a politician.