Lcv Releases 2008 Election Guide

  • The 2008 Presidential Primaries Voter Guide "takes a critical look at candidates' plans for dealing with global climate change." (Image courtesy of the LCV)

An environmental group has come out with an online voter guide for the
presidential primaries. Rebecca Williams reports:

Transcript

An environmental group has come out with an online voter guide for the
presidential primaries. Rebecca Williams reports:


The League of Conservation Voters released its Voter Guide to show how
the candidates stack up. They consider the candidates’ voting records
and their plans to tackle the big issues. Everything from Superfund
clean-up to energy. But especially global warming:


David Sandretti is with the League. He says all of the Democratic
candidates have aggressive plans for controlling greenhouse gasses. He
says Senator John McCain comes out way ahead among the Republican
candidates:


“He has a plan, he has supported a plan, he’s been working on this for
years. And his Republican rivals just simply don’t have that kind of
record.”


Sandretti admits candidates without a federal or state voting record
are hard to compare to candidates with a long Congressional record.
But his group considers their records as mayors or governors.


For the Environment Report, I’m Rebecca Williams.

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Pollution Cleanup Program Underfunded

A new federal fund designed to clean up pollution hotspots along the Great Lakes is being underfunded. Money promised from Congress is coming in much smaller amounts than originally pledged. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Mike Simonson reports:

Transcript

A new federal fund designed to clean up pollution hotspots along the Great Lakes is being
underfunded. Money promised from Congress is coming in much smaller amounts than
originally pledged. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Mike Simonson reports:


The Great Lakes Legacy Act was passed by Congress in 2002… with a promise of 54 million
dollars a year for five years to clean up some of the 31 so-called “Areas of Concern”… the most
heavily polluted areas along the Great Lakes.


But in 2004, the first year money was allocated, only 10 million dollars was released by
Congress. Even so, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Scientist Mark Tuchman says this is
money available for clean up now… a change from the notoriously slow Superfund process.


“This is a focused program. The focus is on contaminated sediments at AOCs. So we’re
optimistic that this program can start making a significant dent in the contaminated sediment
problem in these Great Lakes sites.”


Congress is allocating 24 million dollars for Great Lakes clean up projects in 2005. That’s still
less than half the annual amount promised.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Mike Simonson.

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Presidential Profile: John Kerry

  • As Kerry and Bush battle it out, different groups examine the candidates' views on the environment. (Photo by Sharon Farmer courtesy of johnkerry.com)

The candidates for president and vice president have spent a lot of time talking about security, the economy, and health care. They have not spent much time talking about the environment. As part of a series on the records of the presidential and vice presidential candidates, the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports on Democratic challenger Senator John Kerry:

Transcript

The candidates for president and vice president have spent a lot of time talking about security, the economy, and health care. They have not spent much time talking about the environment. As part of a series on the records of the presidential and vice presidential candidates, the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports on Democratic challenger Senator John Kerry:


Senator Kerry considers himself an environmentalist. Kerry’s Senate office website indicates that
30 years ago, he spoke at his home state of Massachusetts’ first Earth Day. The Senator says he
called for “fundamental protections that became the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Safe Drinking
Water Act, Endangered Species Act and Superfund.” However, he doesn’t often talk about how he
would handle the environment. Early in the campaign in this speech in Minnesota, he promised to
be a guardian of the environment and he briefly outlined his energy plan…


“I will set a goal as president that 20 percent of all of our electricity will be provided from
alternatives and renewables by the year 2020. And I will set this country on the course by creating a hydrogen institute, by putting a billion dollars into the effort of conversion of our autos, by moving to a 20 billion dollar support for the conversion of our industry, we are going to guarantee that never will young American men and women in uniform be held hostage to our dependency on Mideast oil. We’re going to give our children the independence they deserve.”


When the topic of the environment came up during the second presidential candidates’ debate,
Senator Kerry didn’t outline his own plans, but instead responded to President George Bush’s
claims that the environment was cleaner and better under the Bush administration.


“They’re going backwards on the definition for wetlands. They’re going backwards on water
quality. They pulled out of the global warming. They declared it ‘dead.’ Didn’t even accept the
science. I’m going to be a president who believes in science.”


During the negotiations on the Kyoto global warming treaty Senator Kerry went to Kyoto and
worked to craft a plan to reduce greenhouse gases that could pass political hurdles in the U.S. He
was a leader in the effort to stop a Bush proposal to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.


Environmental groups like what they see and have been enthusiastic about their support for the
candidate. Betsey Loyless is with the League of Conservation Voters…


“Senator Kerry, who has, by the way, a 92 percent lifetime LCV score, has quite a remarkable
overall consistent record of voting to protect clean air, clean water and protect our natural
resources.”


But while the environmentalists like John Kerry, some business and industry groups that feel the
federal government’s environmental protection efforts have become burdensome and ineffective
aren’t that impressed…


“Well, John Kerry – yeah, he got a stronger LCV rating than even Al Gore. Now, pause and think
about that, okay?”


Chris Horner is a Senior Fellow with the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a free-market think tank. Horner says he doesn’t like many of Kerry’s positions, but adds he doesn’t think Senator Kerry’s environmental record is as strong as the support from environmental groups might indicate…


“Let’s just say that a lot of the support that comes for Kerry is not through leadership he’s shown in the Congress because he really hasn’t. It’s that he says the right things and that his wife certainly puts the money in the right place.”


Horner suggests that Teresa Heinz Kerry has given large sums of money to environmental
groups… and Horner thinks that’s helped her husband’s political career. Whether you give
credence to those kind of conspiracy theories or not… it’s clear that the environmental groups
prefer Kerry over Bush. The Kerry campaign’s Environmental and Energy Policy Director,
Heather Zichal, says the environmentalists like him… because of his record.


“He’s been called an environmental – dubbed an “environmental champion” and has received the
endorsements of everybody from the Sierra Club to Friends of the Earth. And for him, you know,
environmental protection is not only a matter of what’s in the best interest of public health, but it also is what’s in the best interest of our economy going forward. George Bush has given us the
wrong choices when he says you have to have either the environment or a strong economy. John Kerry believes we can have both.”


But the environment has not been a major issue in the campaign. Conventional wisdom seems to
indicate those who are prone to support pro-environment candidates are already on-board with
Kerry… and the undecided voters have weightier issues on their minds.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.

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Interview: Carl Pope Criticizes Bush Administration

  • Carl Pope is the Executive Director of the Sierra Club. (Photo courtesy of the Sierra Club)

As the political campaigns get into full swing this presidential election year, the environmental record of George W. Bush is being scrutinized. The big environmental groups are very critical of the Bush administration. In the first of two interviews about the Bush White House approach to environmental protection, the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham talks with the Executive Director of the Sierra Club, Carl Pope. Pope and the Sierra Club are critical of the Bush administration’s record on environmental protection:

Transcript

As the political campaigns get into full swing this presidential election year, the
environmental record of George W. Bush is being scrutinized. The big environmental
groups are very critical of the Bush administration. In the first of two interviews about
the Bush White House approach to environmental protection, the Great Lakes Radio
Consortium’s Lester Graham talks with the Executive Director of the Sierra Club, Carl Pope.
Pope and the Sierra Club are critical of the Bush administration’s record on environmental
protection:


POPE: “The biggest environmental problem this country faces right now is the policies of this
administration. It’s kind of stunning too, when you add it all up, just how much damage they
have quietly managed to set in motion in only three years.”


LG: “Now, we’ve listened to folks in the Bush administration who indicate that what they’re
really doing is bringing some balance to dealing with the economic issues the nation faces and
how it relates to the environmental issues that we face.”


POPE: “Well, let’s look at three trends. In 1980, when Ronald Reagan was President, we began
cleaning up toxic wastes dumps in this country with the Superfund. In 2003, for the first time
because the Bush administration both allowed the Superfund to run out of money and allowed
companies to start dumping new kinds of toxins on the landscape, the American landscape
became more polluted. We started going backwards after 20 years of progress.


1972, under Richard Nixon, another Republican, we made a national commitment under the
Clean Water Act to clean up our rivers and lakes. In 2003, because the Bush administration cut
funding for clean water clean-up and because they exempted large factory feedlots from clean
water regulation, EPA had to report for the first time in 30 years America’s waterways had gotten
dirtier.


And finally, in 1902, Theodore Roosevelt, a third Republican, created Grand Canyon National
Monument. And every president since Theodore Roosevelt left us with more of the American
landscape protected than he found it. And in only three years uniquely, singularly and in the
violation of the entire trend of the entire 20th century, this President Bush has stripped
environmental protection from 235 million acres. It’s an area as big as Texas and Oklahoma that
is now open to development which was protected when George Bush became President. I don’t
think that’s balance.”


LG: “I assume that you’re not all that chummy with everyone in the White House these days….


POPE: “That’s a safe assumption.”


LG: …but I’m trying to get an insight into what you think the thinking might be behind some of
the decisions that the Bush administration makes.”


POPE: “Well, in 1970 we made a national compact in this country. It was a national
environmental compact which was: we were environmental optimists and we believed that as a
nation that we could clean up every waterway, we could modernize every power plant and we
could remedy every toxic waste dump. We said as a nation ‘You know, everybody in this country
is going to have water that’s safe to drink. Everybody is going to live in a community where the
air doesn’t give their kids asthma. And we’re going to take time to do it. The federal government
is going to help everybody. And we’re all going to do it as a community.’ I think the fundamental
problem with that compact from the point of view of this administration is the ‘everyone’ part of
it. They really don’t believe that the community should do very much. They believe individuals
should take care of themselves. If you want to have safe drinking water, get yourself your own
supply; buy bottled water. If you want to breathe clean air, move somewhere where the air is
cleaner. They really don’t believe in the idea that every American ought to enjoy certain basic
environmental amenities simply as a consequence of being an American.


And, I think what motivates them is their concern that if it’s the federal government that
is cleaning up our toxic waste sites, then people will have faith in the federal government. And
they don’t have faith in the federal government. In fact, one of their chief advisors says he wants
to shrink the federal government down to a size where he can drown it in a bathtub. And I think
it’s the fact that the environmental compact in this country was based on the idea of an
environmental safety net for everyone that they find antithetical to their view that we all ought to
be tough, we all ought to be competitive, we all ought to be self-reliant and on our own. And
they don’t like the fact that the environmental compact says wait a minute, we’re all in this
together and we’re going to solve it together.”


HOST TAG: Carl Pope is the Executive Director of the Sierra Club.

Related Links

Tapping Nature’s Cupboard for Pollution Cleanup

Often our first impulse to clean up a mess is to reach for a chemical cleaner. It’s the same kind of approach in environmental clean-ups. Often the experts first turn to chemicals to clean up badly polluted areas. A new approach to cleaning up pollution has been evolving in recent years. Instead of creating new chemicals to clean up contaminated areas, researchers are trying to use what Mother Nature already provides. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Victoria Fenner has more:

Transcript

Often our first impulse to clean up a problem is to reach for a chemical cleaner. It’s the same kind
of approach in environmental clean-ups. Often the experts first turn to chemicals to clean up
badly polluted areas. A new approach to cleaning up pollution has been evolving in recent years.
Instead of creating new chemicals to clean up contaminated areas, researchers are trying to use
what Mother Nature already provides. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Victoria Fenner has
more:


Nathalie Ross is standing in front of a big water tank divided into three sections. She’s a scientist
at Canada’s National Water Research Institute. She’s working on a different kind of approach
towards environmental cleanup. She explains she’s letting Mother Nature clean up different
aspects of pollution in each section of the tank.


“The first one is what we call natural attenuation, which is based on the natural process to
degrade contaminants, so that’s what we can call our control.”


In the second section, nutrients are added to the water to feed the existing bacteria to see if they
can be stimulated to clean up the water that’s polluted with chlorinated products.


“The third tank, in addition to the nutrients, we add bacteria. And those bacteria were shown to
degrade the chlorinated products, so we are hoping that it would speed up and also complete the
process to the end where we are hoping to see no contaminant at all.”


What Ross is demonstrating is “Green Chemistry.” Also known as Green Technology, the
concept is simple – instead of creating brand new chemicals, it’s becoming increasingly possible
to use the chemicals and processes already available in nature. The thought is that naturally
occurring compounds will be less harmful than the ones that we invent in the lab.


There are two streams of green chemistry – one is using environmentally conscious principles in
the production of new products and processes – water based paints and fuel produced from corn
are a couple of examples. Nathalie Ross is demonstrating the other stream – using naturally
occurring substances and biological agents such as bacteria to clean up the pollution we’ve already
created.


Jim Nicell is doing similar work. He’s an associate professor in the Department of Civil
Engineering at McGill University in Montreal. He’s working with enzymes that will clean up
toxic waste. He’s found a surprisingly ordinary source of the enzymes – a piece of horseradish
root.


“You can take your horseradish, put it in a blender, get the horseradish sauce if you want and
have it for supper. But before you do that, squeeze out the juice which is pretty awful, raw,
smelly stuff, which actually has a high concentration of this enzyme. I literally took that juice
and added some hydrogen peroxide and into a solution that contained some pretty toxic materials
and they just precipitate out. And so with a very small quantity of this enzyme we can actually
have a major impact on reducing the toxicity of that waste.”


The simplicity of Green Chemistry has been gradually attracting the attention of scientists and industry over
the past fifteen years. In terms of scientific developments, it’s still pretty young. But it’s a
concept that makes a lot of sense to Nicell.


“Nature is a whole lot smarter than we are. It’s had a lot more time than we’ve had to optimize
the way things are carried out. Now, we have a whole bunch of industrial catalysts that we have
made in the past but we don’t have nearly the time or, I guess, the capability, the experimental
setup that nature has had to produce the optimal catalysts.”


It might seem like an ideal solution, but critics say we need to be careful. One of the concerns
which has been raised is ecological balance – whenever large quantities of any substance are
released, even natural ones, there is often a risk that we’ll change the environment in ways we
don’t want to.


Brian McCarry is a scientist with the Department of Chemistry at McMaster University in
Hamilton, Ontario. He says, despite that concern, we shouldn’t be overly worried.


“They’re natural organisms, they’re not pathogenic. I don’t think they’re going to disrupt the
balance of nature. They’re not like putting in some really vigorous organism that takes over.
These are also not mutant, genetically engineered organisms so I don’t think anybody should be
terribly worried about having all sorts of strange genetic material floating around that are now
going to get into the ecosystem and run amok.”


There’s one other big concern about Green Chemistry: the cost. Both Nathalie Ross’s water
project and Jim Nicell’s horseradish experiments are still in the early stages. It’s not clear yet
whether it will be cost effective for large-scale industrial applications. But given the benefits of
green chemistry, advocates hope that the value of using the simple answers nature offers will also
be considered, not just the cost.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Victoria Fenner.

Related Links

State Tries to Avoid Superfund Stigma

A polluted river in northeastern Wisconsin is due for a clean-up. But
who runs the massive project is a hot topic. The Environmental
Protection Agency may add the Fox River to its national priorities list,
more popularly known as Superfund. But state officials would rather
handle the project on their own…and have recently released preliminary
studies on how they envision the cleanup. The Great Lakes Radio
Consortium’s Patty Murray reports: