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Democrats on the Environment, part 3

Air Date: Week of

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Our special, Democrats on the Environment, continues.


CURWOOD: It’s Living On Earth, I’m Steve Curwood. We continue now with Democrats on the Environment, a special forum for the party’s presidential candidates sponsored by the League of Conservation Voters.

CURWOOD: Senator Lieberman, I’ve seen you at the climate change talks in Kyoto, and Buenos Aires. The Kyoto process has run into a brick wall known as the Bush Administration right now, but the law of the land does include the UN framework convention on climate change. This is something that was signed by the United States, ratified by the United States Senate. Perhaps you voted to ratify it, in fact. My question is this: this law-- which requires the United States to implement programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, to report them, and to attempt, to make the effort, to get to a reduction—how well do you think this law is being implemented by the Bush Administration? And, if you were President of the United States, how would you implement the law of the land, otherwise known as the UN framework convention on climate change?

LIEBERMAN: Like most every other environmental law, this one is not being at all implemented by the Bush Administration. This is the most anti-environment administration in our history. Much worse than Reagan, and incredibly worse than the first President Bush. There’s a disregard for the law and for the reality of the threat that environmental pollutants frame our future and our health. People are hurting from what’s happening. The problem with the UN framework, of course, is that it had no teeth in it. That’s why we went to Kyoto. That’s why the nations of the world came together and said we’ve got a problem here, and if we don’t deal with it, people are going to get hurt. Low-lying lands are going to disappear, and that includes in the United States of America. Diseases will travel to places they haven’t been before. This requires leadership. That’s why Kyoto was negotiated. I was there, Vice President Gore was there. We were moving towards something and then the Bush Administration just came in and said forget about it-- an act of colossal irresponsibility, for which history will hold this administration accountable. I will be committed to doing something about this from the first day I get into the Oval Office, and that will begin with the McCain-Lieberman Climate Change Control Bill. Standards, caps…

OLNEY: Senator, you’re out of time.

LIEBERMAN: And market-based mechanisms to make it happen. We’ve got to lead here.

CURWOOD: Well, but with all due respect, I don’t think you really responded to my question directly. The Kyoto…

LIEBERMAN: I certainly responded.


CURWOOD: That’s true. Thank you. They UN framework convention may not have any teeth, but by golly, it’s got gums and a bite to it. And what it does is require the United States government to implement a program of greenhouse gas reductions. We’re required under this.

OLNEY: Thirty seconds.

LIEBERMAN: Well, we’re in violation of it. It has no teeth so…Oh, I’d continue to do all the other things that I’ve done. My energy independence program would require much greater fuel efficiency, 40 miles a gallon. The Clean Power Act that I’ve co-sponsored with Jim Jeffords would clean up those power plants and close down the old ones, so there wasn’t as much junk in the air, etc., etc., etc. Look, the important thing about greenhouse gas and climate change responses is, as somebody said to me, it’s a win-win. Not only do you prevent the most catastrophic effects of global warming in the future, but today you clean up the air. So people are not dying—and 150 thousand kids in Los Angeles have asthma aggravated by dirty air. If we took some of the steps I’ve talked about…

OLNEY: Senator, your thirty seconds has expired. Pilar, a question for governor Dean.

MORERRO: Governor, water quality is becoming a bigger issue for populations in the inner cities, where old plumbing and treatment plants are decaying, and in rural areas and small communities. There needs to be an investment in infrastructure, but in the last 20 years, the federal government hasn’t lived up to that. Do you have plans to address this?

DEAN: I do. I think the president has been incredibly foolish to have these enormous tax cuts, which really haven’t helped Americans with jobs at all. Here’s what I’d do for jobs—first stimulate small business, because they create more jobs than large businesses do, and they don’t move their jobs to Indonesia—and secondly, invest in infrastructure. Now, in our state, we’re very careful about what we do. We invest in sewer and water, but we don’t invest in sewer and water if it leads to urban sprawl. We don’t want certain infrastructure, because we know if we build it, then the development that we don’t want follows. But we need to fix the old infrastructure now. It will create jobs, it will build an infrastructure for the new economy, and it will reduce the pollution going into our waters. And that’s a much better investment than giving tax cuts to people like Ken Lay.

MORERRO: Another issue with water is the level s of toxins in the water, and specifically mercury. If you go to a supermarket here in California you will see notices that children and pregnant women shouldn’t eat certain kinds of fish, because they contain high levels of mercury. What would you specifically advocate in terms of a reduction of mercury and other emissions?

DEAN: This is one of the ways that you can win on the environment. You’ve got to connect people with the consequences. You can’t just talk about coal pollution, which is the way to reduce mercury pollution, is to reduce what’s going on in the Midwest. You’ve got to say just what you’ve said—that you can’t eat the fish in my part of the country because there’s a mercury advisory in almost every freshwater lake in New England, and in the east. So you’ve got to win by connecting what happens in the environment to average American voters. Not talking about greenhouse gasses and TMDLs and all these things—connect it to their everyday lives. What you do with mercury is what we need to do with mercury, we need to deal with the emissions from coal-burning plants in the Midwest. And we need to fundamentally go after all the sources of mercury, but most of that is air pollution.

OLNEY: Now Paul Rogers, a question for Senator Kerry.

ROGERS: Senator Kerry, one of the other Democratic candidates, Dennis Kucinich, isn’t here today. He’s at a rally with Ralph Nader on the East Coast, and the Green Party. Some environmentally minded voters have joined the Green Party. Supporters say the Green Party is not as beholden to special interests as the Democratic Party is, while opponents say that Ralph Nader’s candidacy in 2000 cost Al Gore the election by siphoning away critical votes in Florida and New Hampshire. What’s your view of that?

KERRY: Well, I think it did, obviously, siphon away some votes. And clearly Al Gore had to spend a significant amount of money in a number of states—Washington, Oregon, and elsewhere— in order to pull back from where it was. I know Ralph Rader, Ralph Nader, I’ve…Ralph Rader, that’s probably appropriate here [LAUGHTER]. I’ve sat with him and talked to him already in the course of the last months. Look, we have to talk to those people. To a degree it is the fault of the Democratic Party for not having stood up and been clear about our agenda [APPLAUSE]. And I believe we have to make it crystal clear. I see no reason—I went through and read the Green Party platform. I don’t agree with every single part of it, but I certainly agree with the components on the environment, and raising the standards of our trade negotiations, things we need to do to bring people up. I’m going to talk to those people, and I am going to provide a series of clear choices on water, on air, on environmental justice, on global warming. We cannot drill our way out of this problem, we have to invent our way out of this problem, and we need to get about the business of doing it now. I think we can attract those voters

OLNEY: Do you want to ask a follow-up?

ROGERS: Specifically, which sections of the Green Party platform, or Green Party issues do you disagree with?

KERRY: Well, it’s a long platform, and I don’t have time in thirty second to go through it all…they were specifically opposed to any of the trade agreements of the 1990s. And I though t Bill Clinton lead us to a place where we created 43 million new jobs, the lowest inflation, the lowest unemployment. We not only balanced the budget, but we paid down the debt of our nation for two successive years. And we did it trading. I want to lead us to a place where we not only create that kind of economy, but where we have a smarter set of trade alternatives now that raise the standards on labor and environment. No goods should ever enter this country that have touched the hands of children. And we need a president who begins to enforce those kinds of standards.


OLNEY: John North, a question for Governor Dean.

NORTH: Governor, you’ve had reservations, I understand, about the Kyoto Protocol. Can you give us your problems with the protocol and what would it take for you to support it?

DEAN: First let me say that we need to find a way to sign the Kyoto Protocol. The biggest problem with the Kyoto Protocol is that it doesn’t ask the developing nations to do anything, and that’s an enormous problem. We don’t want to move our smokestack industries offshore to avoid the things they’re going to have to do to comply with Kyoto. So, what I want to do is, when the window comes up in 2006, we need to get back into the negotiations and here’s my proposal: allow developing nations – require them to comply – reduce greenhouse gases, give them a 20 year run-in instead of the five year run-in that we ought to have. And then make the G8 pay between 25 and 30 percent of their costs. We have got to get all of the – I’ve spent significant amount of time in both China and Brazil – I know what they’re doing to the environment there – that is not acceptable. Kyoto has to apply to all of us. We need to be in a mode where we negotiate it successfully so we can sign it.

NORTH: Connected to that, do you believe in the United States and a hard cap on pollution from power plants?

DEAN: Pardon me?

NORTH: A cap on pollution from power plants.

DEAN: Yeah. We should. I’m going to use my remaining 25 seconds to put forth a proposal that I haven’t been able to do because of this format. I’m the only guy here who’s ever had a deal on the ground with brownfields and Superfund. My proposal for that is: let the federal government take over the liability and let them sue the corporations, because I can tell you I have had Superfund sites in my state that has taken years and years and years to clean up. Well, do the clean up first and then let the Feds sue to let the polluters pay. We need those brownfields; we need the Superfund sites cleaned up first. Let the Feds go after the corporations and get the cleanup done first.


OLNEY: I just have to point out that the format was negotiated between the campaigns and the sponsors of the event.

DEAN: So I get my 25 seconds.

OLNEY: Pilar Morrero, a question for Reverend Sharpton.

MORRERO: Reverend, among the top spenders in campaign contributions and lobbying in Washington are some of the biggest oil, energy and auto makers, who have thrown tens of millions of dollars to politicians, seeking to influence policy on issues such as global warming, fuel economy standards and the Kyoto Protocol. Don’t you believe there is something wrong with a system that allows this, and what would you do to fix it?

SHARPTON: Well, I not only think there’s something wrong with it, I think the results are what we see. They’ve been able to, in effect, buy their way into situations that have rendered the American people in an environmentally precarious position. I think that we need to expose that. One of the things I think we must do in 2004 is have a theme in the democratic race, of “follow the money.” And we need to show where the money went and where clean water went, where the money went and where clear air went, where the money went and where regulations of some of these big oil companies. I mean, the Bush Administration has been so pro-oil at a time that we need the world to get off this hostage situation we’re in terms of dependency on Middle East oil. It is so oily in Washington now, it is downright greasy. And we need to make that case to the American people, to get the greasy people out of Washington and bring the right people in.


MORRERO: Now, should high-level officials like presidents and vice-presidents and Congress-people that have or have had some friends in the oil industry or have been in the oil industry – should they excuse themselves from making these decisions?

SHARPTON: I clearly think that where there’s a conflict of interest in any area, and especially this one, people should excuse themselves. I don’t think they will, so I think the American public is going to have to do it for them.


SHARPTON: This administration has clearly had more conflicts of interest in two years than we’ve probably seen in a lifetime. And I think that we’ve clearly got to expose them. We’ve got to stop being timid about things. They went after the Democrats with a vengeance on non-issues. We have real things to go after Bush and Cheney about in their conflict. We are not being defeated as much as we are surrendering. We need to take the fight to them on behalf of the American people.


OLNEY: We have some questions that have been submitted by people in the audience and people on the internet, and I want to take the few remaining moments we have to ask those. And let me put the next one to Reverend Sharpton – I’ll just go down the list. Brian Holland of Atlanta, Georgia asks this: Globalization has provided economic growth, but has also has had significant environmental impacts such as deforestation and over-fishing. How would you hold multinational corporations accountable and address environmental degradation associated with trade.

SHARPTON: Well, first of all, I’m opposed to many of the trade agreements including NAFTA and others of the 90s. I think for any trade agreement that I would support as president or advocate in this campaign, you must have a strong environmental part of the trade agreement that is enforceable. We cannot, in the name of trade, go against the best interests of the people of the world. We have too long allowed government to say we must sacrifice environment, sacrifice health, in order to stimulate the economy either globally or domestically, and I don’t think that’s a fair exchange, I think we need a president that says that clearly some things are non-negotiable, and that, in my judgment that should be non-negotiable.

OLNEY: Next question to Senator Moseley-Braun. This comes from Dan Scolls of Roselle, Illinois. What do you feel is the most significant challenge to protecting our remaining wilderness areas, and how would you address it?

MOSELEY-BRAUN: Well, the most significant challenge is this administration, it seems to me.


MOSELEY BRAUN: I think that we have to be very clear about wildlife conservation funding – fish and wildlife – to make certain that we actually enforce and don’t let them continue to gut the Endangered Species Act. I think we have to deal with the issue of the sprawl that’s endangering our wilderness areas. And we have to, again, go back and look at the whole issue of enforcement, which I think is really the biggest issue that we have with this administration and where we right now. And in that regard, I want to point out that one of the most insidious things that they’re doing has to do with packing the courts. They’re packing the courts with jurists who have an anti-environmental agenda, and this is something I think we really have to be very concerned about. We also have to be concerned about the kind of revolving door cabal that this administration has put in place – stop is upside down [LAUGHTER]– of the cabal they’ve put in place, of people who really have no problem at all with allowing for development to run amuck and destroy wilderness areas without concern for protecting our heritage.

OLNEY: I’m going to go a bit out of order, because according to our timers, Governor Dean hasn’t had quite as much time as the other guests have. So Governor Dean, I’ll put one this to you. Now this comes from Phil Landrigan. It doesn’t say where Phil Landrigan is located. Children are especially vulnerable to environmental contaminants because of their developing immune systems. What steps would you take to protect children from environmental threats?

DEAN: We talked about environmental racism. I think the key to environmental racism is to raise the bar for all pollution and if more pollution is in minority communities, that stops too. That implies… we’ve talked about lead – that’s absolutely critical. We’ve talked about mercury. That’s absolutely critical. The bottom line is: if we want to win this election based on environmental issues, we have got to connect the environment, as I was saying, to mercury, directly through families. To talk about what happens to your child when they go to the emergency room with an asthma attack. Those are the kinds of things that we can do. Talk directly about children and then connect it to the environment, just as we connect national security to the environment by not having a renewable energy policy of any kind.

OLNEY: That’s all the time we have for questions and answers. Once again, according to the format negotiated by the campaigns and the sponsors. Thanks very much to Pilar Morrero, Steve Curwood, Paul Rogers and John North for joining us.



League of Conservation Voters Candidate Profile

Howard Dean on environmental issues

Howard Dean on Environmental Leadership

Profile of Howard Dean from Project Vote-Smart

League of Conservation Voters Candidate Profile

John Kerry’s voting record on the environment

Profile of John Kerry from Project Vote-Smart

League of Conservation Voters Candidate Profile

Joe Lieberman on environmental issues

Profile of Joe Lieberman from Project Vote-Smart

League of Conservation Voters Candidate Profile

Carol Moseley-Braun on environmental issues

Profile of Carol Moseley-Braun from Project Vote-Smart

League of Conservation Voters Candidate Profile

Profile of Al Sharpton from Project Vote-Smart

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– Living on Earth story on Bush’s Environmental Reassessment (November 22, 2002) RealPlayer | mp3



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