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Enviros Endorse Edwards

John Edwards' stellar environmental voting record delights conservation groups and adds a distinctly green hue to the Kerry campaign.
 
 
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Conservationists are applauding John Kerry's selection of fellow Senator John Edwards of North Carolina as his vice presidential running mate.

Edwards has "amassed a solid record on public health and conservation issues that stands in stark contrast to the Bush administration's corporate-driven agenda," said League of Conservation Voters (LCV) President Deb Callahan.

Kerry, too, is ranked highly by the League of Conservation Voters, and won an endorsement from the Sierra Club, which also endorsed Edwards on Tuesday.

In announcing Edwards as his running mate, Kerry said, "In the next 120 days and in the administration that follows, John Edwards and I will be fighting for the America we love. We'll be fighting to give the middle class a voice by providing good paying jobs and affordable health care. We'll be fighting to make America energy independent."

A first-term senator who worked as a trial lawyer for 20 years before he was elected in 1998, Edwards has staked out an environmentally responsible position.

He led the opposition to the Bush Administration's proposed New Source Review rule changes under the Clean Air Act which would allow refineries and utilities to side-step installation of the best available technology when making changes to their facilities that would emit more pollutants.

On his website, Edwards says, "Current law requires that when old power plants and other industrial polluters expand their operations, they have to install up-to-date clean air technology. The Bush administration, however, has made major new loopholes in the law – allowing plant owners to pollute more. I held public hearings on this issue and am working to marshal opposition to these misguided plans."

By comparison, said Callahan, Vice President Dick Cheney "was one of the administration's leading advocates for those public health rollbacks." She contrasted their records and styles, calling Cheney "the former CEO of Halliburton who ran controversial, secret energy task force meetings" and Edwards, "a populist champion for families whose health was harmed by irresponsible corporations."

Edwards has supported drinking water protection, public lands protection and opposes drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as well as drilling on public lands, national monuments, and coastal areas. Edwards opposes the repository for spent nuclear fuel rods and high-level nuclear waste that President George W. Bush and the Republican-led Congress have approved for Yucca Mountain, Nevada, 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas. This position is in harmony with that of the Nevada Congressional delegation, both Democrats and Republicans.

Nevada Senator Harry Reid, a Democrat who opposes Yucca Mountain on grounds of safety, said that he got a commitment from Edwards Tuesday that he would work to stop the Yucca Mountain project.

Reid said, "John Edwards supports John Kerry on all issues important to the people of Nevada, including Senator Kerry's pledge to stop nuclear waste coming to Nevada."

Under the Bush administration plan, the radioactive waste now stored at locations in 39 states would be transported by road and rail to Yucca Mountain and there held at a temperature above the boiling point of water. The state of Nevada has mounted court challenges to this plan, which are expected to be heard this summer.

Edwards ran against Kerry for the Democratic presidential nomination, but came in a distant third. As a part of that process, Edwards completed a questionnaire for the League of Conservation Voters. In it, said Callahan, he wrote of his intention to "reverse every harmful environmental executive order and regulation" from the Bush administration.

"He also voiced his support for lowering our dependence on foreign oil through increasing fuel economy standards and investing in alternative energy sources," Callahan said.

The Sierra Club lost no time in issuing a statement in support of Edwards' environmental record. "At a time that the Bush administration has made unprecedented attacks on environmental protections, Senator Edwards consistently stands up to preserve and strengthen the laws that keep Americans' air, water and public land clean and safe," said Debbie Sease, Sierra Club's legislative director. "John Edwards will make an excellent vice president."

Reviewing Edwards' voting record, Sease points out that the senator is a co-sponsor of the Clean Power Act, designed to require utilities to control multiple pollutants – carbon dioxide, mercury, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides.

Edwards used Earth Day 2004 to criticize the President's environmental policies. "The Bush administration has reversed decades of bipartisan progress on the environment," he said.

He took aim at Bush's "so-called 'Clear Skies' proposal," which he said would result in "21 million more tons of pollution – including sulfur, nitrogen oxides, and mercury – than if the Clean Air Act was strictly enforced."

Edwards supported the Clinton Administration's Roadless Rule to keep roadbuilding and logging out of the portions of national forests that are roadless today – about 58.5 million acres. He voted to reduce subsidies for commercial logging, to reduce overgrazing on public lands, and against weakening public lands protections in 2000 and 2001, Sease said.

In 2001, Edwards voted to prevent the weakening of Endangered Species Act protections for salmon and other threatened fish species in California's Klamath Basin and voted in 1999 to increase funding for Forest Service fish and wildlife programs, she said.

In 2000, he supported an amendment to the Energy and Water Appropriations bill to improve water flows and wildlife habitat on the Missouri River, a campaign priority for many U.S. conservation organizations.

"The Bush administration has abandoned the principle of 'polluter pays' for the Superfund toxic waste clean-up," said Edwards on Earth Day. "North Carolina alone has 29 Superfund sites that are contaminated with toxic chemicals from PCBs to arsenic and are located in communities," he said.

"Under the Clinton administration, the Superfund Trust Fund, funded by polluter-paid fees, paid for most of the clean-ups," Edwards said. "Under the Bush administration, the Trust Fund has been empty, shifting major costs onto the American taxpayer."

Once opponents, now running mates, Kerry and Edwards will campaign together for the first time Wednesday, July 7 when they speak at a campaign rally in downtown Cleveland. The rally will mark the Democrats' first official campaign event since Kerry named Edwards to his ticket Tuesday morning. The Cleveland event will kick off a four-day tour by the two Democrats that will take them to Ohio, Florida, New York, West Virginia, New Mexico and North Carolina.

On Saturday, the Kerry-Edwards campaign is encouraging environmental organizers to host an "Enviros Action Party." Teresa Heinz Kerry will join organizers on a environmental strategy conference call.

Sunny Lewis is editor-in-chief of Environment News Service , an independently owned, continuous, real-time wire service covering the environment.