RFK, Jr.: Factless Diatribes of a Leftist Enviromentalist

The daily diatribes from environmentalists against President Bush are predictably devoid of facts, and a major speech recently by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, was no exception.

In fact, Kennedy’s rants in many cases were so disconnected from reality that one wonders whether he has any command of the issues, or simply feels no responsibility to present his views with even a thin veneer of fact, or both. In many cases, his charges against the Bush Administration, which are generally representative of national environmental groups, were simply bizarre, raising serious questions about the intellectual character of the modern environmental movement.

Consider two examples:

Example #1:

Tammy Lytle, president, National Press Club: “Are there — there are environmentalists who support the Bush Clear Skies plan, such as the Adirondack Council. Others are opposed. Who’s right?”

Kennedy: “I don’t know any environmentalist who supports it. It’s a — you know, I don’t know any environmentalist who supports voluntary compliance. You know, voluntary compliance doesn’t work on the highways. It doesn’t work with the tax structure. They don’t say it — you know, they don’t say to people, “You know, it’s voluntary to pay your taxes.” And this is a — this is — you know, it’s the same thing.”

FACT: Clear Skies, a voluntary program? Really? Clear Skies, as nearly everyone knows, is MANDATORY. Here’s a description of Clear Skies from EPA’s website: “The proposed Clear Skies legislation would create a mandatory program that would dramatically reduce power plant emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and mercury by setting a national cap on each pollutant.” And further: “The mandatory emission reductions using Clear Skies’ market-based cap and trade programs build on Clean Air Act programs to facilitate achievement of human health and environmental goals. Clear Skies will enable many State and local governments to meet national standards for fine particles and ozone.”

Example #2:

Lytle: “Some critics say that the environmentalists have been knee-jerk in opposition to pretty much anything that President Bush does. Anything you’d like to compliment him on?”

Kennedy: “You know, really, somebody asked me yesterday, and I’ve been thinking for 24 hours about it.”

FACT: This jaunty little witticism sparked laughter from the audience, but it’s worth asking whether Kennedy knows what even his own organization has stated publicly. For it was the Natural Resources Defense Council that said President Bush’s proposal to reduce diesel emissions from off-road vehicles represents “the biggest public health step since lead was removed from gasoline more than two decades ago.” An NRDC staff member, according to the Washington Post, said the emissions proposal is “the biggest health advance in a generation.” “Diesel engines are the dirtiest engines, fouling every urban, suburban and rural community,” said Rich Kassel, NRDC senior attorney and founder of its Dump Dirty Diesels Campaign. “Cleaning them up will benefit every breathing American, and ultimately will save thousands of lives every year.”