Dean Debuts Environmental Strategy for Next 100 Years
SAN FRANCISCO, California, July 31, 2003 (ENS) - Democratic presidential candidate Governor Howard Dean, MD today outlined his environmental strategy, opening with praise for the policies of Republican President Theodore Roosevelt. Dean said he has a 100 year vision for the environment, because, like Roosevelt, he believes true leadership includes protecting the environment for future generations.
Dean's environmental agenda has four elements. The first is an "environmentally sound energy policy" that emphasizes energy efficiency, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, and investment in renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power.
"California has taken the lead with a standard that calls for 20 percent of your electricity to be renewable by 2017," Dean told a San Francisco audience of about 400 people. "The rest of the country will need time to catch up to you, so my energy policy calls for 20 percent renewable electricity by 2020."
Dean pledged to "put the protection back in environmental protection," elevate the Environmental Protection Agency to Cabinet status, and restore the United States to world leadership on environmental issues.
Dean warned that the current administration’s policies are damaging the environment, and threatening to unravel decades of progress in protection and conservation.
“One hundred years ago, Theodore Roosevelt saw conservation as not only central to the national social, economic and political health, but as a reflection of basic American values. In the century since he lived in the White House, America has forged a bipartisan consensus on the importance of conservation and the responsibility each of us has to pass along a safe, healthy environment to future generations,” Dean said.
“Today, we have a Republican president who seeks to destroy this consensus and reverse decades of responsible environmental policy. We have a president who seems to regard public resources as gifts to be handed out to special interests,” the former Vermont governor said.
"Allowing big industry to release more pollutants into the air we breathe, President [George W.] Bush calls it the "Clear Skies" program," Dean said. "Allowing big timber to denude our forests, the Bush-Cheney administration calls it the "Healthy Forests" initiative."
"This Orwellian doublespeak might be amusing if it weren't so dangerous," Dean said, referring to the book "1984" by George Orwell about the perils of living in a totalitarian society. "But it is dangerous," the candidate said, "because environmental policy today is about far more than saving a natural habitat."
Environmental issues are health issues, Dean said. Speaking as a physician, he said "failure to act on the environment has devastating health consequences, "and pledged to urge Congress to strengthen the laws reducing pollutants and "to think of these environmental commitments as I do - as part of our broad vision for health care reform."
Saying that environmental issues are economic issues, Dean accused "right-wing radicals" of making the American people choose between having a healthy environment or a healthy economy. "I believe that a healthy environment will support a healthy economy," he said.
"It can be difficult to bring business interests and environmentalists together," Dean acknowleged, but said that when he was governor of Vermont from 1991 to 2002, he learned that the "greatest gains" come from bringing about this type of cooperation.
As governor, Dean ordered that emissions in Vermont be reduced to levels below those required by the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement under the United Nations climate treaty that President Bush declined to send to the Senate for ratification.
Dean said he recognizes the threat of global warming, and believes "we must work toward a Kyoto Protocol we can adopt. " He wants the agreement to include carbon dioxide reductions by developing nations as well as developed nations. Carbon dioxide is the main greenhouse gas that traps heat near the planet, causing in increase in surface temperature.
Energy efficiency is a centerpiece of Dean's environmental plan because, he said, "I know it works."
"Today, Efficiency Vermont meets two percent of Vermont's electricity needs. It's on track to meet 10 percent in the next eight years," Dean told the San Francisco crowd. If we could match that nationally, we'd need 200 fewer new power plants over the next decade, he said.
Dean suggested federal matching funds for state energy efficiency programs, or creation of a national Energy Efficiency Performance Standard to be met at the state level.
A Dean administration would "direct the auto industry" to implement a fuel efficiency standard of 40 miles per gallon by 2015. "Forty miles per gallon is doable - in fact, it has been doable for a long time. And it will create a brand new market for our automakers," he said.
Dean expressed support for hydrogen powered vehicles, a development the Bush administration also supports.
Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham today announced the release of two solicitations for research and development in hydrogen production, delivery and storage technologies. Abraham said funding of up to $200 million over four to five years will be provided. "These solicitations allow our universities and national labs to work with industry to solve the problems of hydrogen production, delivery, and storage," he said. "We must solve the infrastructure challenges to develop a hydrogen based delivery, storage, and refueling infrastructure like the petroleum based one we have today."
Dean would clean up polluted land by funding rehabilitation of the most hazardous waste sites, those on the National Priorities List, known as the Superfund List.
"Superfund, which exists to pay for critical cleanups, was designed to be funded by special corporate taxes and by fines paid by polluters," he said. But the legislation authorizing Superfund to collect these monies expired in 1995 and a Republican controlled Congress refused to reinstate it. As a result, the level of funds in our so-called Superfund is now at a 20 year low."
"As President," Dean pledged, "I will revive Superfund by re-establishing a simple rule that every shopper understands implicitly, 'You break it, you bought it.'" He did not address the situations where the original polluters cannot be found, or do not have the resources to pay for cleaning up their former properties.
Dean promised to protect the National Park Service "against the lobbyists and special interests," in contrast to the Bush administration which has attempted to outsource park service jobs to private contractors.
"We'll place tighter controls on air pollution immediately," Dean said. "New legislation will reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide, oxides of nitrogen, mercury and carbon dioxide. We'll strengthen New Source Review requirements to undo the damage done by the Bush administration. And I'll ask Congress to close the loophole in federal law that allows old, polluting power plants to continue to foul our air," he said.
Dean said his administration would address an oceans crisis that has meant dwindling fish populations and increasingly polluted coastal waters.
"We'll provide adequate funding so that the Fish and Wildlife Service will never again have to say, as it did in May, that it would halt designations of critical habitat under the Endangered Species Act because the service is, and I quote, 'out of money.'"
As Dean was promising to "put the environmental cop back on the beat," in San Francisco, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and California agencies announced the expansion of a new environmental crimes task force in Southern California. The sheriff's departments of Orange and Los Angeles counties, the California Highway Patrol, the Los Angeles Port Police and the California Department of Mental Health are all involved.
The focus of the venture is potential "environmental terrorism," which the agencies identified as "causing harm to the environment as a means of spreading terror - rather than ecoterrorism." Examples of environmental terrorism could include attempts to damage or destroy chemical plants, water supply systems, or sewage treatment systems.
Other Democratic presidential hopefuls have also come out in support of environmental protection.
House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt said, "Our national objective should be to reduce emissions, clean our air, and enhance energy independence with new technologies." He would permanently protect the Arctic wilderness from oil drilling," and gets credit from the League of Conservation Voters for engineering the Congressional agreement to clean up brownfields.
Senator John Edwards of North Carolina has blamed President Bush for "trying to roll back our clean air laws to make his power industry friends happy."
Congressman Dennis Kucinich of Ohio has pledged to "toughen environmental enforcement, support the Kyoto treaty on global climate change, reduce oil dependence, and spur investment in alternative energy sources, including hydrogen, solar, wind, and ocean."
Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut sponsored legislation to require the EPA Administrator to establish regulations to limit the greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity generation, transportation, industrial, and commercial economic sectors. He plans to reduce dependence on foreign oil by nearly two-thirds within 10 years and within 20 years, eliminate the need for foreign oil.
A Field Institute poll released July 22 says Dean is leading all Democratic presidential hopefuls in California. The statewide Field Poll completed July 1-13 found Dean the choice of 16 percent of California Democrats, Massachusetts Senator John Kerry 15 percent, and Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman 14 percent. In April, registered Democrats surveyed in a Field Poll found Lieberman in front, with Kerry next, and Dean trailing with seven percent.
Concluding his environmental policy speech, Dean said today, "One hundred years from now, our children's children will read about the challenges that faced early 21st century America. It will be either a tale filled with great deeds and noble acts or one of unspeakable neglect and irresponsibility. Let us act so that they will not be analyzing in their history books why we took so long to secure our environment - or why we did nothing."