With concerns about the economy, the war on terror and the war in Iraq, politicians have not spent a lot of time on topics such as the environment. As part of a series of profiles on the presidential and vice presidential candidates, the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports that the candidate with the shortest record of public service is the candidate who talks the most about the environment on the campaign trail. Here’s a look at Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards:
With concerns about the economy, the war on terror and the war in Iraq, politicians have not
spent a lot of time on topics such as the environment. As part of a series of profiles on the
presidential and vice presidential candidates, the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham
reports that the candidate with the shortest record of public service is the candidate who talks
the most about the environment on the campaign trail. Heres’a look at Democratic vice presidential
candidate John Edwards:
Senator Edwards thinks the Bush campaign is vulnerable on environmental issues. When asked about
his positions on the environment, he often begins by talking about the things he feels are at risk
under Bush administration.
“Over and over and over, whether it has to do with protecting our air, protecting our water,
whether we’re going to become energy independent in this country, protecting our natural
resources, making sure that we protect our lands, our national forests – all these issues
that are so important – making sure we don’t drill in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge, all these
things are important because we have a responsibility to our children and our grandchildren
to leave this planet better than the way we found it. And that’s what we’ll do when John Kerry’s
Although John Kerry has not spent a lot of time talking about the environment himself, Senator
Edwards knows that over 20 years in the U.S. Senate Kerry has a lifetime approval rating from the
League of Conservation Voters of 92 percent. The average Democrat has an approval rating of 70
percent… the average Republican an approval rating of 13 percent.”
Betsey Loyless is the League of Conservation Voters vice president of policy. She says
Edwards’ own record on the environment is not nearly as extensive.
“Senator Edwards has a short record on the environment because he’s been in the Senate only
one term, but his record has been, I think, has been quite good for a one-term senator. And,
he has been a leader on clean air issues. This administration, the Bush administration, had
pushed to weaken Clean Air Act standards as they apply to these old grandfathered power plants
that are the biggest of polluters. Senator Edwards led the charge to tell the Bush administration
to stop that policy on behalf of power plant operators and utilities.”
Senator Edwards did not get that job done. The Bush policy to allow power plants to make
improvements without updating pollution control equipment was put into place.
John Edwards talks about that losing battle while he’s on the campaign trail. He says he –
at least – wanted studies to see if the experts thought the changes in the regulations on the
old coal-fired power plants would affect human health.
“I mean, the laws had been there for 25 years. Can’t we take six months to figure out if you
change them what it’s going to do to people? And they refused to do it. Here’s why: they know
the answer. They know exactly. They were for it because the big energy companies are for it.
It’s just no more complicated than that. And so, that’s one example of the fight.”
Senator Edwards’ fight hasn’t been going on very long. Before his election to the U.S. Senate,
he held no legislative seat.
Jack Betts is an editorial writer and columnist for the Charlotte Observer. He’s followed
Edwards’ political career for the last few years. Betts says the environmental groups in
Edwards’ home state of North Carolina seem to approve of the senator’s positions.
“John Edwards in his Senate campaign six years ago was identified as the more likely
to be a strong advocate for the environment. And I think that helped him to election then.
And I don’t think he’s done anything to reverse those expectations about how he would stand
on the environment in the future.”
Senator Edwards’ critics say really it’s hard to say how he’d stand on any issue. They point to
his voting record for the last couple of years, noting that he was often absent. He’s missed
votes while on the road campaigning to be the Democrats’ presidential nominee… and now
campaigning as vice presidential candidate. But the environmental groups seem confident
that as vice president, John Edwards would fully support what they would expect to be a
pro-environment Kerry administration.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.