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John Kerry on Environment

Jr Senator (MA), Democratic nominee for President


Minority communities more likely polluted than white areas

While all Americans are at risk of suffering the ill-effects of air pollution--and all pollution--not all are suffering equally. In the US, poor & minority Americans have a much greater chance of becoming ill from environmental toxins because they have a greater chance of living near a polluting industry than do white, wealthier Americans.

A 2005 investigation found that people of color were 79% more likely than whites to reside in communities where pollution posed the highest health risks. In the most polluted areas, 1 of every 6 people lived in poverty.

The practice of local governments encouraging the placement of noxious industries in poor neighborhoods goes back to the early part of the 20th century, where minority communities were zoned as “industrial” while white communities were zoned “residential.” The trend continues today. Poor & ethnic communities are often assumed to be politically powerless & therefore are targeted wen it comes time to locate a new power plant or toxic dump.

Source: This Moment On Earth, by John & Teresa Kerry, p. 59-60 Jan 1, 2007

The Clear Skies bill is Orwellian and makes things worse

The Clear Skies bill is one of those Orwellian names you pull out of the sky, slap it onto something. If they just left the Clean Air Act all alone the way it is today, no change, the air would be cleaner than it is if you passed the Clear Skies Act. We’re going backwards. In fact, his environmental enforcement chief air quality person at the EPA resigned in protest over what they’re doing. They’re going backwards on the definition for wetlands. They’re going backwards on the water quality.
Source: Second Bush-Kerry Debate, in St. Louis MO Oct 8, 2004

Fact Check: Contaminated home uses city water, not bottled

FACTCHECK on Water Contamination: John Kerry left a misleading impression when he tried to personalize a water-pollution issue:

KERRY: There’s a couple in Salem called Lisa and Randy Denuccio. They live next to a lake. They can’t drink the water. Their kids can’t make lemonade now. They don’t take showers with the water. They have to buy bottled water.

FACTCHECK: But when an Associated Press reporter called the family after the debate, Lisa Denuccio said the family does in fact take showers: “We can’t do without that.” The AP did quote her as saying they now use water from the city rather than their well. Kerry’s statement that they can’t shower with “the water” might be literally correct- but might easily have led many listeners to think the Denuccio family is worse off than is the case. He should have come clean.

Source: FactCheck.org: 2004 Primary Presidential Debate in Durham NH Dec 9, 2003

Make environmental justice an EPA priority

The problem of environmental justice is well-documented. Back in the 1980s, studies determined that most landfills were located near minority communities. In 1992, a Bush administration investigation confirmed that the poor face greater risk of hazardous waste exposure and sustain more environmental costs than more fortunate Americans.

On Earth Day 2003, I announced a proposal to resume the battle against environmental injustice, in part by greatly elevating it priority for the EPA and other federal enforcement agencies and in part by creating environmental empowerment zones, in which the impact of federal decisions on the health of low-income and minority citizens would have to be taken into account before they are implemented.

I also called for a measure that will be critical not only in dealing with environmental injustice but also in dealing with environmental health issues generally: establishing a national tracking system for chronic diseases and environmental health hazards.

Source: A Call to Service, by John Kerry, p.159-60 Oct 1, 2003

Safeguard the environment and grow the economy

Q: What about progressive environmental policies?

A: For 30 years in public life I have committed to environmental protection. My commitment is driven by the belief that we can safeguard the environment and grow our economy. I have fought hard to reduce the threat of global warming by supporting renewable energy and increased funding for climate change research. I have also called on Bush to stop blocking progress and to engage in international efforts to mitigate the threat of climate change.

Source: MoveOn.org interview Jun 17, 2003

Voted YES on $2 billion more for Cash for Clunkers program.

Congressional Summary:Emergency supplemental appropriations of $2 billion for the Consumer Assistance to Recycle and Save (CARS) Program.

Proponent's argument to vote Yes:Rep. OBEY (D, WI-7): The cash for clunkers program has proven even more wildly popular than its strongest supporters had predicted. Just last month, Congress passed the program, which provided up to $4,500 if you trade in your old gas guzzler for a new car that gets better mileage. That was done in the hopes of spurring some new car sales and encouraging people to be a little more environmentally friendly. We provided $1 billion in the supplemental to get it going, enough for about 250,000 sales--which was just about exhausted in one week. This bill transfers $2 billion from the Department of Energy's Innovative Technology Loan Guarantee program, which doesn't expect to award funding until late next year.

Opponent's argument to vote No:Rep. LEWIS (R, CA-41): In the majority's haste to slam legislation with no time for consideration or amendments, we are now seeing the effects of such shortsighted martial law tactics.

Senator Feinstein tried to negotiate some changes to improve the program but was told that it was this way or the highway. Not one hearing on the Cash for Clunkers program, not one hearing on how the first billion dollars has been spent, not one hearing on how much money the program will need to get through the fiscal year.

Many of my colleagues will say, This is a great program, and it is necessary for the revitalization of the car industry. I'm not really going to argue with those goals. However, are we sure this program is working like it's supposed to? I don't think so. This program has only been up and running 1 week. If that is how the government is going to handle billion-dollar programs affecting all Americans, I ask, Whatever will we do if the administration takes control of our health care system?

Reference: Cash for Clunkers bill; Bill H.R. 3435 ; vote number 2009-S270 on Aug 6, 2009

Voted NO on prohibiting eminent domain for use as parks or grazing land.

To prohibit the involuntary acquisition of farmland & grazing land by government for parks, open space, or similar purposes. Exceptions include takings for use by:

Proponents support voting YES because:

Sen. CRAIG: "Eminent domain was elevated greatly as an issue following a highly controversial 2005 Supreme Court decision known as Kelo vs. The City of New London. Since that decision, we as a nation have allowed state & local governments to utilize eminent domain to force landowners to yield their property to private development. Farmers and ranchers in particular have become vulnerable to state and local governments taking their property for economic development or open space designations. My amendment is a very targeted amendment. It addresses only cases in which private working agricultural land is taken and turned into public open space."

Opponents recommend voting NO because:

Sen. HARKIN: This amendment doesn't reach the Kelo decision [because Kelo was about taking open space for private development]. Under this amendment they can still do that.

CRAIG. Oh, I disagree totally. We reach a portion of Kelo that is now most frequently impacting farms and ranches, and that is open space for open space.

HARKIN. The amendment has the Federal Government telling a local government what it can and cannot do within its own jurisdiction.

Letter from the National Conference of State Legislatures & US Conference of Mayors:

"This amendment is not only ill-advised, but it is also unconstitutional [because it] preempts state & local land use laws. The 5th Amendment expressly permits the taking of private property for public use provided just compensation is provided to the owner. The power of eminent domain has always been, and should remain, a state and local power."

Reference: Craig Amendment to Farm Bill Extension Act; Bill S.Amdt. 3640 to H.R. 2419 ; vote number 2007-429 on Dec 13, 2007

Voted YES on including oil & gas smokestacks in mercury regulations.

A joint resolution disapproving the rule submitted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on March 15, 2005, relating to the removal of coal- and oil-fired electric generating units from the list of major sources of hazardous air pollutants under the Clean Air Act. The EPA's Clean Air Mercury Rule:
Reference: EPA's Clean Air Mercury Rule; Bill S J Res 20 ; vote number 2005-225 on Sep 13, 2005

Voted NO on confirming Gale Norton as Secretary of Interior.

Vote to confirm the nomination of Gale Norton as Secretary of Interior. [Ms. Norton generally favors conservative or libertarian stances on the environment.]
Reference: Bill Confirmation vote ; vote number 2001-6 on Jan 30, 2001

Voted NO on more funding for forest roads and fish habitat.

The Bryan Amdt (D-NV) offered an amendment to raise funding levels for Forest Service road maintenance and wildlife and fisheries habitat management programs. Senator Craig (R-ID) motioned to table this amendment. [A YES vote is considered pro-business].
Status: Table Motion Agreed to Y)54; N)43; NV)3
Reference: Motion to table Bryan Amdt. #1588; Bill H.R. 2466 ; vote number 1999-272 on Sep 14, 1999

Voted NO on transportation demo projects.

McCain amendment to the transportation reauthorization bill (S. 1173) would require that funding for demonstration projects be covered by their respective state allocations instead of being funded individually in the transportation bill.
Status: Amdt Agreed to Y)78; N)22
Reference: McCain Amdt #1726; Bill S. 1173 ; vote number 1998-29 on Mar 12, 1998

Voted YES on reducing funds for road-building in National Forests.

Vote on an amendment to cut the $47.4 million provided for Forest Service road construction by $10 million, and to eliminate the purchaser credit program [which provides credits to timber companies to offset what they owe the government].
Reference: Bill HR.2107 ; vote number 1997-242 on Sep 17, 1997

Voted YES on continuing desert protection in California.

Invoking cloture on the California desert protection bill. ["Invoking cloture" means "ending the discussion and calling a vote." A NO vote in this case would continue discussing whether to terminate the existing program, and hence is considered pro-business and/or anti-environment].
Status: Cloture Agreed to Y)68; N)23; NV)9
Reference: California Desert Protection Act of 1993; Bill S. 21 ; vote number 1994-326 on Oct 8, 1994

Voted YES on requiring EPA risk assessments.

Require risk assessments of new EPA regulations.
Status: Amdt Agreed to Y)90; N)8; NV)2
Reference: Safe Drinking Water Act Amdt.s of '94; Bill S. 2019 ; vote number 1994-117 on May 18, 1994

Reduce liability for hazardous waste cleanup.

Kerry co-sponsored an amendment to CERCLA:

Source: House Resolution Sponsorship 01-HR1831 on May 15, 2001

End commercial whaling and illegal trade in whale meat.

Kerry introduced a resolution for the International Whaling Commission

Source: Resolution sponsored by 20 Senators 01-SR121 on Jun 29, 2001

Support UNCED Rio Declaration at 2002 conference.

Kerry introduced a resolution on World Summit on Sustainable Development

Expresses the sense of the Senate that having the President lead the U.S. delegation at the World Summit on Sustainable Development would send a strong signal of U.S. support.

Calls for the United States to: (1) take specified steps at the Summit, such as reaffirming its support for the implementation of commitments entered into at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), supporting efforts to improve the institutional structure for implementing the framework created by Agenda 21 and the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, remaining firmly opposed to commercial whaling, and supporting measures to increase the use of renewable sources of energy worldwide; and (2) provide leadership and pursue the negotiation of international agreements to address global climate change and to protect the marine environment.

Urges the President to identify priority international environmental agreements that the United States has signed during and following the UNCED that the Administration will present to the Senate for ratification.

Source: Resolution sponsored by 13 Senators 02-SR311 on Jul 30, 2002

Rated 53% by the LCV, indicating a mixed record on environment.

Kerry scores 53% by the LCV on environmental issues

The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) is the political voice of the national environmental movement and the only organization devoted full-time to shaping a pro-environment Congress and White House. We run tough and effective campaigns to defeat anti-environment candidates, and support those leaders who stand up for a clean, healthy future for America. Through our National Environmental Scorecard and Presidential Report Card we hold Congress and the Administration accountable for their actions on the environment. Through regional offices, we build coalitions, promote grassroots power, and train the next generation of environmental leaders. The 2003 National Environmental Scorecard provides objective, factual information about the environmental voting records of all Members of the first session of the 108th Congress. This Scorecard represents the consensus of experts from 20 respected environmental and conservation organizations who selected the key votes on which Members of Congress should be graded. LCV scores votes on the most important issues of the year, including environmental health and safety protections, resource conservation, and spending for environmental programs. Scores are calculated by dividing the number of pro-environment votes by the total number of votes scored. The votes included in this Scorecard presented Members of Congress with a real choice on protecting the environment and help distinguish which legislators are working for environmental protection. Except in rare circumstances, the Scorecard excludes consensus action on the environment and issues on which no recorded votes occurred.

Source: LCV website 03n-LCV on Dec 31, 2003

EPA must do better on mercury clean-up.

Kerry signed a letter from 45 Senators to EPA

To: Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Dear Administrator Leavitt:

We are writing to urge you to take prompt and effective action to clean up mercury pollution from power plants. The EPA’s current proposals on mercury fall far short of what the law requires, and they fail to protect the health of our children and our environment. We ask you to carry out the requirements of the Clean Air Act to protect our nation from toxic mercury contamination.

On January 30, 2004, EPA proposed two alternative rules to address mercury emissions. Unfortunately, both of these proposals fail to meet the Clean Air Act directives for cleaning up mercury. EPA's proposals permit far more mercury pollution, and for years longer, than the Clean Air Act allows.

The toxicity of mercury has been proven time and again by scientists around the world. The Agency's own scientists just released a study finding that approximately 630,000 infants were born in the US in the 12-month period, 1999-2000, with blood mercury levels higher than what is considered safe. This is a doubling of previous estimates.

The newest scientific studies show that controlling mercury emissions works. As we saw in Florida, sharp reductions in mercury pollution are mirrored by reductions in nearby fish populations. A study in northern Wisconsin indicated that reductions in the input of mercury from air corresponded with marked reductions in mercury fish tissue levels in the 1990s.

As the Administrator of the EPA, you have the legal authority and the responsibility to address mercury emissions and protect public health. We do not believe that EPA's current proposals are sufficient or defensible. We urge you to withdraw the entire proposed rule package and re-propose a rule for adequate public comment that meets the terms of the 1998 settlement agreement and is promulgated by the December 15, 2004 deadline.

Source: Letter from 45 Senators to EPA 04-SEN1 on Apr 1, 2004

Sponsored health impact bill for environmental health.

Kerry introduced for health impact assessments for environmental health

OnTheIssues.org Explanation: A classic 1980s study demonstrated that poor neighborhoods are burdened with more environmental hazards than rich neighborhoods. The 1980s study established the field of "environmental justice"; this bill addresses environmental justice and health justice.

OFFICIAL CONGRESSIONAL SUMMARY: A bill to require health impact assessments and take other actions to improve health and the environmental quality of communities, and for other purposes.

SPONSOR'S INTRODUCTORY REMARKS: Sen. OBAMA: The Healthy Places Act of 2006 focuses on the built environment, which includes our homes, parks, and transportation systems. Like many other States, Illinois has already begun to take steps to improve the environment. City leaders in Chicago have recognized that many low-income families have no access to fresh foods and medicine because there are no grocery stores and pharmacies in their neighborhoods. Retail Chicago, an initiative of the city's Department of Planning and Development, is now using redevelopment funds to entice local developers to bring grocery stores and pharmacies into these neighborhoods.

The Healthy Places Act of 2006 would expand these and other efforts to improve the planning and design of communities that can promote healthier living. It establishes and supports health impact assessment programs; better addressing environmental health issues; and creating a grant program to address environmental health hazards, particularly those that contribute to health disparities. Finally, the Healthy Places Act provides additional support for research on the relationship between the built environment and the health status of residents.

LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Referred to Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions; never came to a vote.

Source: Healthy Places Act (S.2506/H.R.5088) 06-S2506 on Apr 4, 2006

Grants for beach water pollution under Clean Water Act.

Kerry co-sponsored grants for beach water pollution under Clean Water Act

Beach Protection Act of 2008 - Amends the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (popularly known as the Clean Water Act) to include among eligible grant activities the development and implementation of programs for source tracking, sanitary surveys, and prevention efforts to address the identified sources of beach water pollution. Requires grant recipients to identify:

  1. the use of a rapid testing method;
  2. measures for communication within 24 hours of the results of a water sample concerning pollutants to specified officials with authority to require the prevention or treatment of the sources of beach water pollution;
  3. measures to develop and implement a beach water pollution source identification and tracking program for the coastal recreation waters that are not meeting applicable water quality standards for pathogens; and
  4. a publicly accessible and searchable global information system database with information updated within 24 hours of its availability, organized by beach and with defined standards, sampling plan, monitoring protocols, sampling results, and number and cause of beach closing and advisory days.
  5. Legislative Outcome: Related bills: H.R.2537, S.1506. Senate Reports: 110-414.
    Source: Beach Protection Act (S.2844) 08-S2844 on Apr 10, 2008

    Strengthen prohibitions against animal fighting.

    Kerry co-sponsored strengthening prohibitions against animal fighting

    Sen. CANTWELL. I reintroduce today the Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act of 2007. This legislation has won the unanimous approval of the Senate several times, but unfortunately has not yet reached the finish line.

    There is no doubt, animal fighting is terribly cruel. Dogs and roosters are drugged to make them hyper-aggressive and forced to keep fighting even after suffering severe injuries such as punctured eyes and pierced lungs. It's all done for "entertainment" and illegal gambling. Some dogfighters steal pets to use as bait for training their dogs, while others allow trained fighting dogs to roam neighborhoods and endanger the public.

    The Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act will strengthen current law by making the interstate transport of animals for the purpose of fighting a felony and increase the punishment to three years of jail time. This is necessary because the current misdemeanor penalty has proven ineffective--considered a "cost of doing business" by those in the animal fighting industry which continues unabated nationwide.

    These enterprises depend on interstate commerce, as evidenced by the animal fighting magazines that advertise and promote them. Our bill also makes it a felony to move cockfighting implements in interstate or foreign commerce. These are razor-sharp knives known as "slashers" and ice pick-like gaffs designed exclusively for cockfights and attached to the birds' legs for fighting.

    This is long overdue legislation. It's time to get this felony animal fighting language enacted. It's time for Congress to strengthen the federal law so that it can provide as a meaningful deterrent against animal fighting. Our legislation does not expand the federal government's reach into a new area, but simply aims to make current law more effective. It is explicitly limited to interstate and foreign commerce, so it protects states' rights in the two states where cockfighting is still allowed.

    Source: Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act (S.261/H.R.137) 2007-S261 on Jan 4, 2007

    Fund projects for international conservation of cranes.

    Kerry signed Crane Conservation Act

    A bill to assist in the conservation of cranes by supporting and providing, through projects of persons and organizations with expertise in crane conservation, financial resources for the conservation programs of countries the activities of which directly or indirectly affect cranes and the ecosystem of cranes.

      Requires the Secretary of the Interior to provide financial assistance for approved projects relating to the conservation of cranes, using amounts in the Crane Conservation Fund established by this Act. Allows a project proposal to be submitted by:
    1. any wildlife management authority of a country located in the African, Asian, European, or North American range of a species of crane that carries out at least one activity that affects crane populations;
    2. the Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora; and
    3. any person or organization with demonstrated expertise in the conservation of cranes.
    Source: S.197&HR388 2009-S197 on Jan 9, 2009

    Fund studies of sustainable fisheries.

    Kerry co-sponsored the Sustainable Fisheries Act

    Corresponding House bill is H.R.39. Became Public Law No: 104-297.
    Source: Bill sponsored by 9 Senators and 1 Rep 95-S39 on Jan 4, 1995

    Fund studies of invasive species and algal blooms.

    Kerry co-sponsored the National Sea Grant College Program Reauthorization Act

    Amends the National Sea Grant College Program Act to authorize competitive grants for university research on invasive species, specifically: (1) the zebra mussel; (2) oyster diseases and oyster-related human health risks; and (3) Pfiesteria piscicida and other harmful algal blooms. Became Public Law No: 105-160.

    Source: Bill sponsored by 28 Senators 97-S927 on Jun 17, 1997

    Other candidates on Environment: John Kerry on other issues:
    Incoming Obama Administration:
    Pres.Barack Obama
    V.P.Joe Biden
    State:Hillary Clinton
    HHS:Tom Daschle
    Staff:Rahm Emanuel
    DOC:Judd Gregg
    DHS:Janet Napolitano
    DOC:Bill Richardson
    DoD:Robert Gates
    A.G.:Eric Holder
    Treas.:Tim Geithner

    Former Bush Administration:
    Pres.George W. Bush
    V.P.Dick Cheney
    State:Colin Powell
    State:Condi Rice
    EPA:Christie Whitman

    Former Clinton Administration:
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    HUD:Andrew Cuomo
    V.P.Al Gore
    Labor:Robert Reich
    A.G.:Janet Reno
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    Page last updated: Feb 25, 2011