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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

June 27, 2003

Air Date: June 27, 2003


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Democrats on the Environment, part 1

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This week, our entire broadcast features a special forum for the democratic presidential candidates sponsored by the League of Conservation Voters and held at the Ackerman Grand Ballroom at the University of California, Los Angeles. Among the democratic hopefuls attending were former Illinois senator Carol Moseley Braun, former Vermont governor Howard Dean, U.S. senators John Kerry and Joe Lieberman, and the Reverend Al Sharpton of New York. The candidates discussed their views on the environment and were questioned by a panel of reporters, including Living on Earth’s host Steve Curwood. The moderator of the forum is Warren Olney, host of the nationally syndicated radio show, "To the Point." Panelists are: Steve Curwood, host of "Living on Earth;" Pilar Marrero, political editor for La Opinion; John North, a reporter with KABC; and Deborah Schoch, environmental reporter for the Los Angeles Times. (13:00)

Democrats on the Environment, part 2

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Our special, Democrats on the Environment, continues. (19:00)

Democrats on the Environment, part 3

(stream / mp3)

Our special, Democrats on the Environment, continues. (19:00)

Audio from the entire forum

Hear the forum in it's entirety. ()

Show Credits and Funders

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Show Transcript

HOST: Steve Curwood


CURWOOD: From NPR, this is Living on Earth. The candidates are preparing to choose a candidate to challenge George W. Bush in 2004. And right now there are nine contenders trying to break free from the pack, and gain the momentum and money that front-runner status brings. Their views on the environment just may help set them apart from each other, and from President Bush.

KERRY: I want to be a president who asks the Americans to do the right thing. I believe that the sacrifices that are needed are the sacrificing of bad habits. And the sacrificing of selfishness. But we do not have to ask Americans to sacrifice quality of life.

CURWOOD: This week from Los Angeles we bring you a special candidate’s forum, sponsored by the League of Conservation Voters. It’s Democrats on the environment, coming up on Living on Earth, right after this.

[NPR newscast]

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Democrats on the Environment, part 1

FEMALE ANNOUNCER: Support for Living on Earth comes from the National Science Foundation and Stonyfield Farm.

CURWOOD: This is Living On Earth. I’m Steve Curwood, and welcome to Democrats on the Environment, a special forum for the party’s presidential candidates sponsored by the League of Conservation Voters. We’re here at the Ackerman Grand Ballroom, on the campus of the University of California, Los Angeles, to hear the candidates discuss the environmental issues of the day, and respond to questions from a panel of reporters. Of the nine declared democratic presidential hopefuls, five are here today, including former U.S. Senator Carol Moseley-Braun of Illinois, former Vermont Governor Howard Dean, U.S. Senators John Kerry of Massachusetts and Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, and the Reverend Al Sharpton from New York. Joining me to question them are Pilar Moreno, political editor for the daily newspaper La Opinion, John North, a reporter with KABC TV in Los Angeles, and Paul Rogers of the San Jose Mercury News. Warren Olney, host of member station KCRW’s To the Point, is the forum’s moderator.

OLNEY: The president took some heat this week, because the EPA’s new report on the environment was said to have played down the issue of global warming. Senator Lieberman, how important, do you think is global warming, and what specifically would you do about it?

LIEBERMAN: Thank you, Warren. Global warming is the most critical, long-term environmental challenge that America and the world faces. This administration has been profoundly irresponsible in dealing with this. In fact, it pulled us out of the Kyoto Protocol to deal with global warming, and in doing so separated us from the rest of the world, in a way that’s had profound and adverse consequences for our foreign policy. Incidentally, the decision by this administration to block out scientific fact from its EPA report about global warming because it didn’t meet its political conclusions was outrageous. And it is more typical of the old Soviet Union than of the United States of America. But it’s not new for this administration. I have been fighting to do something about global warming since I came to the Senate in 1989. I went to Kyoto and Buenos Aires. John McCain and I, today, have the most comprehensive, constructive, aggressive program to deal with global warming that anyone has yet produced. We’re going to put it on as an amendment to the energy bill in the Senate, after July fourth when that bill comes up. It sets standards, caps—it would bring us back, or up, to 2000 emission levels by 2010, and 1990 emissions level by 2016. That would not only protect us, and the generations to follow us, but it would restore us to our moral role as leader of the world in dealing with a problem that we are a major cause of.

OLNEY: Governor Dean, is there any, in your mind, any scientific disagreement about global warming that’s significant, or do you think it really is an established fact?

DEAN: It’s an established fact unless you’re in the Bush Administration. It’s clearly a scientific—I agree with Joe—one of the things that drives me absolutely crazy, in all areas, not just the environmental area, is this president is willing to discard science because he doesn’t care about science. This is an administration that has substituted ideology for thought. You can’t run a country, you can’t run a state, your can’t run a company if facts don’t matter. And facts don’t matter to this administration. I will note, however, just on a note of, sort of, sadness, in one way—this is Christie Whitman’s last day on the job as EPA director. And you may applaud, but this was a women who I served with . She wasn’t all that bad, for a Republican, on environmental issues. And she has to be leaving because no one pays any attention to her. She hasn’t run the EPA since she arrived there. It’s all run by the right-wing young folks from inside the White House who don’t care about environmental protection. She tried to do her job, she left because the White House told her what to do, and I think it’s a disgrace.

OLNEY: If global warming is a moral issue, Senator Lieberman, then do have a responsibility to call on the American people to sacrifice in order to try to deal with it? We’re going to have to give something up?

LIEBERMAN: Absolutely. You sacrifice for a purpose, and the purpose is to protect the generation s that will follow us here in America and, overall, on Earth, from the dire and potentially catastrophic consequences of climate change and global warming.

OLNEY: What sacrifices do we need to make?

LIEBERMAN: Well, number one, and this is part of my own energy declaration of independence, we’ve got to break our addiction to foreign oil. We’ve got to break our addiction to oil-- and don’t expect leadership on that front from an administration that is from oil, by oil, and for oil. As president, I’m going to do better than that. We’ve got to invest in new technologies. We’ve got to be willing to take on what’s a controversial matter in the Democratic Party. We’ve got to demand by law that American auto makers produce cars that are fuel efficient. And I set a standard in my proposal of 40 miles per gallon average fuel efficiency by the year 2015. This is all about leadership. Leadership that doesn’t just do just what’s popular at the moment by ignoring problems, but leadership that sees a problem coming over the horizon and asks the American people to do something about it. The bill I have with John McCain would do exactly that , in 80 percent of the emissions…

OLNEY: Let me go to former Senator Moseley-Braun, and ask you the same question. Do you think the American people are going to have to give things up in order to cope with the environment. Is that something that you think is going to be part of the Democratic campaign next year?

MOSELEY-BRAUN: At the outset I want to thank the league of conservation voters, and everyone here for coming and for having this dialogue and discussion. I think these issues—when Joe Lieberman uses the term morality and outrage in connection with what’s happening in environmental protection, he’s exactly right. These people have missed the point all together. This administration has lied to the American people, and we have failed in our responsibility in a variety of ways, emissions policy just being one of them, pulling out of Kyoto just being one of them. But let me say that while there will have to be sacrifices, I thin k that, in some ways, that sets up almost a false set of choices. That fact of the matter is that we can reduce our dependence on carbon-based fuels. We can have technology investment in the first instance, and technology transfer that will get us away from this addiction to the energy policies that are killing our planet. We can make choices, sensible choices, that will give us, in some ways, a more conservative lifestyle, but certainly not one that will pit one group of Americans against another, pit economic development against protection of the environment. That set of false choices has been, I think, the smokescreen for an awful lot of confusion around these issues, and has helped to peel off constituencies and people who might otherwise not only understand, but support conservation, based on the notion that they’ll lose their jobs. I think that that’s a false set of choices. I think we should make the point to the American people, as Democrats, that we can rebuild this economy, we can jumpstart this economy, we can create jobs, and we can protect our environment at the same time.

OLNEY: Senator Kerry, we’ve heard that this is a moral issue, that it’s terribly important. We’ve heard that sacrifices will need to be made if we’re going to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, if we’re going to cut back on pollution. But what specific sacrifices are going to have to be called for?

KERRY: Well, let me speak to that in a moment, but first I want to say—first of all, thank you for the privilege of being here, and thank you for what the league of conservation voters does. There are many of my colleagues, and myself, who have run with great support from the grassroots of this organization , and we appreciate it. Secondly, let me say that with respect to the EPA, that is one of the most disgraceful steps by this administration that keeps faith with their continued effort to say one thing and do another. And I sent a letter to the Inspector General of the EPA asking that they conduct an appropriate investigation of how it is that the White House doctored what is an official government document by a departing Secretary. I think that’s inappropriate, and we should do that. Secondly, with respect to the issue of sacrifice, I think it’s critical for us—I certainly believe—I want to be a president who asks the Americans to do the right thing. I believe that the sacrifices that are needed are the sacrificing of bad habits. And the sacrificing of selfishness. But we do not have to ask Americans to sacrifice quality of life. And that’s a critical distinction to make as we think about what we are saying to Americans. We have the technology, we have the capacity, we have the will, we have the commitment, we have the entrepreneurial skill to be able to develop the means of driving better cars without reducing their capacity to carry the soccer mom to the field. Without reducing the capacity of people on farms to do what they do. So we need to talk directly to the American people. I want the cars of the future made in Detroit, I want them made by Americans. And I believe that this Administration is culpable of walking away from America, and from jobs, by not exciting the possibilities of future vehicles. I drive over here today with Peter Ortin in an electric car that they’ve ceased to make at GM. Honda and Toyota are making the hybrids. We need leadership that is going to say that by the year 2020, 20 percent of America’s electricity is going to be produced from alternatives and renewables. We’re going to raise the raise the emissions standards of our cars, just like you all had the courage to do out here in California, and we are going to set this country on the path to energy independence. We’re going to create the jobs of the future in doing so, and we don’t have to sacrifice one iota of quality of life to do that.


OLNEY: Reverend Sharpton, if it does come down at some point to a choice between jobs and the environment, which is more important?

SHARPTON: Well, first of all, let me join my colleagues in thanking the League for having this forum. As I said, I was a little late working my way through the smog to get here, which is why I want to be president, so we can have standards against that. But let me say we must not allow this administration to continue to use the bogeyman in every argument. They’ve used it to justify Iraq, they’re using it to try and do what they’re doing in the environment, and to try and stop us from moving from an oil-dependent economy. The fact of the matter is, to ask someone are they going to sacrifice their job for their health is like asking a drug addict are you going to sacrifice dope for your health. The fact of the matter is, we should not try and act as though we have a choice in terms of moving to what is more efficient, more healthy, more life-sustaining, and what is better for our grandchildren and their grandchildren. So to try and act like Americans are so cheap that we would rather be paid for something that is detrimental than to try and achieve the transfer into hybrid vehicles, and electric vehicles. Americans understand, if they are exposed to the facts, that where we are now will harm us. It will bring us to levels that we cannot sustain—the humanity of this country and the humanity of the world—and we ought not make false choices to them, with the bogeyman saying you got to hold onto your job, therefore choke yourself to death. I think as we build towards efficiency and health, we ought not tell people that the payoff is that they can get paid to kill themselves.

CURWOOD: You’re listening to Democrats on the Environment, a special forum for the party’s presidential candidates sponsored by the League of Conservation Voters. Our broadcast from the Ackerman Grand Ballroom at the University of California, Los Angeles continues in just a minute. Stay tuned to Living on Earth.

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Democrats on the Environment, part 2

CURWOOD: Welcome back to 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.

OLNEY: It’s just about time to go to any questions from the reporters. Let me just ask any of you to chime in at this moment and raise an issue, give us a priority, give us a particular issue that you’re concerned about. Very briefly. Ten seconds. Let me just go down the line. Senator Lieberman, you first.

LIEBERMAN: The clean power act. You know, air pollution in America is causing 30,000 people to die prematurely everyday. And a lot of this is coming from old power plants. The Bush Administration actually wants to make that worse, with a proposal that’s made, which would cause 9,000 additional people to die earlier than they otherwise would.

OLNEY: So you want to crack down on emissions from power plants.

LIEBERMAN: Clean power act – close the loophole – close the old plants unless they can clean up and not hurt people – not kill people.

OLNEY: Governor Dean.

DEAN: When I was governor, my major environmental contribution was conservation. Top priorities as president: conservation and wilderness, dealing with brownfields and making Superfund work again. And then the biggest emphasis, is reducing our reliance on foreign oil using renewables in a sustainable economy.

OLNEY: Okay, Senator Braun, same thing. 15-20 seconds.

MOSELEY-BRAUN: When I was in the Senate, I did brownfields legislation, and I would certainly want to continue in that regard. I also was active in past legislation having to do with environmental justice, which is another whole issue. But I also think that the issue of agriculture policy and public lands is a place where we really have to focus in terms of protecting the environment.

OLNEY: Senator Kerry?

KERRY: I want to change the entire debate and discussion about the environment in this country. It’s about jobs, it’s about health, it’s about our legacy as a generation and it is about national security. And we need to make it clear to the country that the false choice that has been given by this administration – it’s either jobs or the environment – is wrong. The environment is jobs. And we’re going to prove to Americans we can put them to work, and we’re going to do it in a way, Warren, that’s just. Eighty percent of all Hispanics in America live in counties with bad air. Twenty-five percent of the kids in New York have asthma. We need an environmental justice environment at the civil rights department of the justice department, and I intend to guarantee that we restore that.

OLNEY: Reverend Sharpton, new subject. Go ahead.

SHARPTON: You asking me the same question?

OLNEY: Yes, 10 or 15 seconds, whatever you’d like to introduce.

SHARPTON: Environmental justice. I think that we’ve seen various communities in this country penalized just because of where they were in the income level. We’ve seen in some of these emission trade agreements that has impacted people wrongly. I would clearly fight hard for environmental justice. I would also fight for the absolute cap on carbon dioxide, I would absolutely reenter the discussions around the Kyoto Accord.

OLNEY: I do want to ask one question. Maybe it will come up with the reporters, but a question would be, it seems to me, would you vote for the Kyoto Treaty as it currently exists. But, let’s just leave that one hanging for a moment. I think it’s interesting, but it’s not my turn anymore. It’s time for the reporters to get their opportunity. And I want to introduce them. First, they are Pilar Marrero, who is politics editor for the Spanish language newspaper La Opinion. Steve Curwood, who is host of National Public Radio’s Living on Earth. Paul Rogers, environmental reporter for the San Jose Mercury News. And John North, who is a reporter for KABC television in Los Angeles. Now, each reporter will ask a question of one candidate with an opportunity for one follow-up. As you know, and I’ll try to enforce it this time around – I’ve been having a little trouble seeing the signs – it has been agreed that the answer to each question won’t go for more than one minute. You’ll then have 30 seconds for a follow-up. So we’ll just go round robin until we run out of time. The first question comes from Pilar Marrero, and it goes to Senator Kerry.

MARRERO: Senator, there are many studies, as you were mentioning that show that low-income neighborhoods are more likely to have major sources of pollution than other areas. For example, Latinos are more likely to live near a toxic-emitting plant, and children from low-income families tend to live in areas where there is more traffic and exposure to automobile emissions. What do you plan to do to address some of these inequities? Some specific measures.

KERRY: I’ve been deeply involved in this issue for a long time. I was involved in the first Earth Day, I was chairman of New England Earth Day 1990. And on this Earth Day, this year, I chose to go to Roxbury, Massachusetts, not the place where most people think of the environmental movement. And I went there to announce that I will appointment an assistant attorney general for environmental justice, and reinvigorate the department in order to deal with what is an epidemic across our country, of unfairness. I mean, we have, everybody knows this institutionalized separate and unequal school system in America. And we have a racial-profiling that takes place in everyday life in America, where loans cost more, cars cost more, homes cost more, because of the kind of profiling in our economy against people of color. And their lives are degraded on a daily basis, whether it is lead paint poisoning or whether it is diesel trucks that drive through the community because those are the routes they’re given, or toxic waste sites. And the bottom line is that minorities live next to toxic waste sites and dumps more than any other people in the country, and we have to give their voices power. I intend to do that as President of the United States.

MORRERO: Can you give us an idea of a couple of specific measures.

KERRY: Yes. I have put forward a proposal to build on what we know worked with the empowerment zones. But I’m going to create environmental empowerment zones. And we are going to specifically target money in order to clean up the sites. To follow through – needless to say – the Superfund sites. The funding of Superfund is a disgrace by this president. He has changed the “polluter pays” principles. I am going to restore those principles and we are going to continue to be able to fund Superfund. 99 sites in California alone. And if you look at where most of those sites are, you will find poor people on whom they’ve been shunted. I think that it is essential for us to have a president who cares about that. There’s no way you can be president for all Americans if you don’t.

OLNEY: Senator Moseley-Braun, we’re going to go by prearranged order, so the next question will come from Steve Curwood, and it goes to Governor Dean.

CURWOOD: Governor Dean, I guess your title is also Dr. Dean, you’re a physician. The point that Senator Kerry made about lead is something I’d like to follow up with you. Recent research indicates that even small amounts of childhood lead exposure are related to increased rates of delinquency and crime, along with learning disabilities. This is a major problem in this country because there are perhaps 100 million homes that still have lead paint in them. And many of the homes that have seriously deteriorating lead paint, where these children are poisoned, are in homes of people of color, people of poverty. Lead is said to be perhaps the single most preventable disease in America today, and yet nothing has effectively been done about it. What’s your prescription?

DEAN: Let me tell you what we did in our state. Not only is lead preventable, but it is also a significant contributor to learning disabilities when kids go to school. We have very old housing stock. We simply put a lot of money in. First of all, we banned lead paints, which has been done nationally. We lowered the standards of lead that were supposed to be in kids’ blood. We tested them, we test virtually every kid – we have a law where we can do that. And then we put a bunch of money in, to go through old housing stocks where poor people lived and – it’s very expensive – take the paint off the wall, and put new paint in. It’s expensive, landlords have to pay for some of it, but it has to be done. The only way to get lead out of kids is to first of all, make sure that the paint comes off and they’re living in lead free homes. You have to do that with a combination of regulation and money. And second of all, to deal with the environmental racism issue. And if I just may, for a second…

OLNEY: Your minute is just about up.

DEAN: In that case, I won’t for a second.


OLNEY: Steve, do you want to ask a follow up?

CURWOOD: Let me follow up. That’s wonderful that you’ve done that in Vermont, but the vast bulk of these kids who are being poisoned aren’t in Vermont, governor.

DEAN: There’s not a vast bulk of much in Vermont.


CURWOOD: There’s plenty of milk in Vermont, there’s wonderful milk in Vermont. The beautiful hills. Not a lot of lead. You’re president of the United States – your dream, your wish right now – okay, you’re president of the United States, and you’re looking at this problem as a health problem.

DEAN: Sure.

CURWOOD: Because I tell you one of things that happens, when this increases the crime rate, everybody suffers in the societies, not just the kid who has the learning disability. This increased link to crime seems to be very important demographically. We don’t have time really to talk about it. What do you do to implement this?

DEAN: My health care plan for the country – my universal health care plan – is based on what we did in Vermont. In Vermont, everybody under 18 has health insurance, and everybody under 150 percent of the poverty has health insurance. That will work for the country. So will our lead program. If we can get the lead out of poor kids who are in a state of 600,000 people, you can do that in the country using exactly the same formula. It takes a combination of one – federal funding, two – legislation dealing with landlords who have lead-based paint in their house, three – outreach and testing of kids. If you can do it in the state, you can do it in the country.

OLNEY: Pilar Morrero, a question for Senator Lieberman.

MORRERO: Yes, Senator. The North American Free Trade Agreement between Mexico, U.S. and Canada, has increased trade between the countries and produced jobs. But with increased economic opportunity have come greater environmental degradation and criticism that truck and traffic and maquiladoras, or U.S. owned manufacturing plants south of the border are having a negative effect on the environment. Advocates say the protections in NAFTA are not enough and the U.S. is exporting more than goods – it is exporting pollution to the area. What is your position? Do you think NAFTA needs to be revisited?

LIEBERMAN: I supported NAFTA, supported President Clinton, who supported NAFTA because I thought it would be good for the economies of both countries. But you know, we listen, we look, we experience, and we learn. And I think one of the things that the Clinton-Gore administration learned, and I supported as we went on, is that we had to put environmental standards into labor agreements to make sure that the environment of the country with which we were negotiating, and particularly our neighbor to the south, were not being compromised. So I think that’s the way to go. And I will tell you also – and this goes to your previous question also, about environmental justice – during 2000 I took a truth tour of Texas to look at the Bush record. And I visited the Colonius along the Mexican-American border with Texas. And the desperate conditions that people are living in, the fact that George W. Bush never visited there, the environmental challenges that people were facing there were, I think, an indication of what was to come when George W. Bush became president. And I think that he has carried on that same disregard for the environment, and for people’s health.

OLNEY: Your minute is up. Pilar, do you have a follow-up?

MORRERO: Yes, more specifically, there are laws already that regulate the movement of waste and toxics across the border. But even EPA officials have said they don’t have the funding to activate the monitoring of this, and as such there are gaps in control. How would you deal with stuff like that?

LIEBERMAN: This is all about priorities, which leadership is about. And I know we’re not here to talk about the president’s fiscal policies, but they have been as irresponsible as his environmental policies.


LIEBERMAN: He’s given away our national treasury in a tax cut that hasn’t worked. And what that means is that the rest of government that we depend on for the safety net for the poor, for hopes of improving education and health care and environmental protection is being compromised. Did you know that criminal environmental enforcement is down 40 percent since Bush became president? I passed a law in Congress that quadrupled the number of criminal investigators. As president, I will give the Environmental Protection Agency the money it needs to investigate and enforce – you know how to deal with environmental injustices – simply by equally enforcing the law.

OLNEY: Senator – I’m trying to equally enforce the time here.

LIEBERMAN: Okay, I yield.

OLNEY: Steve Curwood, a question for Senator Kerry.

CURWOOD: Senator Kerry, I think you’d agree with me that this is an extremely important election that we’re looking at. This is an important turning point in history. Every election in a democracy, of course, is important. But this one is really big – no? That’s not the question, though.


KERRY: Oh, God, I was hoping.

CURWOOD: No, the question is this…

KERRY: I was about to say, nice question.

CURWOOD: This is something that if you win this nomination, you go out there, you feel like you must win. Campaigning on the environment, how do you think you can beat Mr. Bush given that he’s campaigning against the environment, as you gentleman and Senator Braun have said here a number of times. In other words, what do you think this issue is going to do for you with voters. Mr. Bush is calling it the other way – he says that voters want to see these rollbacks.

KERRY: Well it’s not what it does for me, it’s what it does for us, it’s what it does for our nation. I believe that – and I’m sure that my colleagues here share this – this is part of a series of choices that this administration is offering that are completely contrary to the needs, interests, concerns and future of our country. I respectfully suggest to everybody here that on every single choice in front of this nation, there is a better choice than this administration is offering us.


KERRY: With respect to health care, with respect to the environment, with respect to children, with respect to education, housing, infrastructure, our relationship in the world. And this issue is part of that vision. This issue, the environment, number one, it’s not just about the environment. It’s about our role in the world, it’s about our legacy to our children, it’s about the jobs that we will create for the future and whether or not they will be high value-added jobs based on technology that raise our standard of living. God only gave us three percent of the world’s oil. I’m proud that I lead the fight to stop the Arctic Wildlife drilling and I’m proud that John McCain and I lead a fight to raise the emission standards that we lost.

OLNEY: That’s your minute, Senator. Steve, do you have a follow-up.

CURWOOD: Yes, I do have a follow-up. Senator, perhaps the biggest issue, though, in this election and in these times is national security. You mention national security as something the environment is related to. How does the issue of national security and the environment help you win this election?

KERRY: Well, I believe that I am particularly well-suited to take on President Bush with respect to national security, because I look forward to reminding Americans that I know something about aircraft carriers because I’ve worked with them for real.


KERRY: I intend to point out to the president that landing on an aircraft carrier at the hands of a skilled Navy pilot does not make up for rolling back every single environmental choice in this nation. And in addition to that , I will point out to Americans that – look, we are taking 20 billion dollars a year and dumping it into the pockets of some of the most uncooperative and repressive regimes in the world. And that money finds its way to those who hate Israel, and those who hate the United States. And we need to begin, for the sake of our own future, to liberate any young servicemen from ever being held hostage to our dependency on Middle East oil. We do that by striking out for independence. That’s the national security issue. I’m sorry this president doesn’t see it, but everybody here does. And at the end of this campaign, America will see it.

OLNEY: Paul Rogers, a question for Governor Dean.

ROGERS: Governor Dean, at least half of America’s current corn crop and large percentages of other crops are genetically modified. As the only physician on the panel today, do you think genetically modified foods are safe to eat?

DEAN: Yes. But I believe that we ought to have a national labeling law, because people have the right to know what they eat. We went through this with BST. I signed a labeling – with Bovine Somatotrophin -- which is a hormone that stimulates milk production. I’ve been through all the studies. There’s no indication… Here’s the problem with GMOs: it’s not whether they’re safe to eat or not, it’s one – genetic drift, which is incredibly unfair to organic farmers and two – do people have the right to know what ‘s in their food. And I think they do – so we signed a labeling law. So in our state, you can tell if your milk product has BST in it and avoid it if you choose. And I think that is not only the same choice that we ought to get here –the Europeans are entitled to that choice.


CURWOOD: You’re listening to Democrats on the environment, a special forum for the party’s candidates, sponsored by the League of Conservation Voters. Our broadcast from the Ackerman Grand Ballroom at the University of California, Los Angeles, continues in just a minute. It’s Living on Earth.

FEMALE ANNOUNCER: Funding for Living on Earth comes from the World Media Foundation Environmental Information Fund. Major contributors include the Oak Foundation, supporting coverage of marine issues and the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation. Support also comes from NPR member stations and Bob Williams and Meg Cauldwell, honoring NPR’s coverage of environmental and natural resource issues, and in support of the NPR President’s Council. And Paul and Marcia Ginsberg, in support of excellence in public radio.

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Democrats on the Environment, part 3

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.

Related links:
- 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
- RealPlayer | mp3

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


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Audio from the entire forum

RealAudio streaming audio |  mp3 audio file

Opening statements

Questions from reporters

Questions from audience

Closing statements

Post-forum interviews with environmental leaders and celebrities

The entire forum (RealAudio only)

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CURWOOD: You’ve been listening to Democrats on the environment, a special forum sponsored by the League of Conservation Voters. Our broadcast was produced by Chris Ballman and Ingrid Lobet, with help from Nate Marcy. For more on the environmental voting records of all the Democratic candidates and an analysis of the Bush White House voting record on the environment, visit our website, livingonearth.org. That’s livingonearth.org.

We’re produced by the World Media Foundation in cooperation with Harvard University. Allison Dean composed our themes. Our technical director is Al Avery. I’m Steve Curwood, executive producer. Thanks for listening.

FEMALE ANNOUNCER: Funding for Living on Earth comes from the National Science Foundation, supporting coverage of emerging science and Stonyfield Farm, organic yogurt, cultured soy and smoothies. Ten percent of their profits are donated to support environmental causes and family farms. Learn more at Stonyfield.com. Support also comes from NPR member stations and the Annenberg Foundation and Tom’s of Maine, maker of natural care products and creator of the Rivers Awareness Program to preserve the nation’s waterways. Information at participating stores, or tomsofmaine.com.

MALE ANNOUNCER: This is NPR, National Public Radio.


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