Transcript: Robert Kennedy Jr. - Get Ready For A Climate Denier Heading up the EPA?! - 7 December '16

Thom Hartmann: You need to know this. So far, Donald Trump's choice of cabinet members has been - well - deplorable.

He's picked someone who wants to privatize Medicare to oversee Medicare as his secretary of Health and Human Services.

He's picked a bankster who foreclosed on a 90-year-old over a 27 cent underpayment to oversee the banksters as his Treasury Secretary.

And he's picked a guy who thinks the KKK were just fine as long as they don't smoke pot to oversee our Civil Rights and marijuana laws as his Attorney General.

But as bad as those picks were, they pale in comparison to Trump's latest choice for a cabinet member, especially if you care about the future of our existence as a species on this planet. Multiple sources now say that Trump has picked Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to regulate fossil fuels as head of the Environmental Protection Agency.

This really is about as bad as it gets. Pruitt is a close ally of the fossil fuel industry - and he's lead the Republican war on President Obama's climate regulations. In some cases, as the New York Times reports, he's literally acted as an agent for big oil even while working in his capacity as Oklahoma's top law enforcement official:

"A 2014 investigation by The Times found that energy lobbyists drafted letters for Mr. Pruitt to send, on state stationery, to the E.P.A., the Interior Department, the Office of Management and Budget and even President Obama, outlining the economic hardship of the environmental rules."

Not surprisingly, Pruitt is also a climate change denier - either totally stupid about science or just happy to take all that petro-billionaire money to keep him in power. For example, just this past June, he wrote an editorial in the Tulsa World newspaper falsely claiming that -

"Scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind."

So, here were are - Global temperatures are rising faster than ever before, Arctic sea ice is at record lows, all signs point to runaway climate change becoming a reality within the decade, and the man who's now set to head up environmental policy for the next few years thinks there's still a "debate" about whether or not climate change is even real?

Joining me now to help us understand all this is Robert Kennedy Jr., attorney, president of the Waterkeeper Alliance. Bobby, welcome back.

Robert Kennedy Jr.: Thanks, Thom.

Thom Hartmann: It's great to see you. So this Pruitt pick certainly looks as bad as it could possibly get in terms of the EPA, do you think that's fair to say?

Robert Kennedy Jr.: I think it would be hard to find somebody worse than him. Scott Pruitt has been about a shill for the, not just the energy industry but for Tysons Food and for corporate agriculture. He's allowed the, he's taken a lot of money from oil and as you pointed out he allowed Devon Energy to ghost write letters for him on their behalf, signed by him on state stationary, to the EPA. He's repeatedly sued EPA. He is a, he's a really, he's a creature of the large-scale industrial agriculture: the Cargills, the Tysons, the other big agricultural enterprises, Bo Pilgrim, etcetera and of the oil industry.

And he also, he has wed his affinity for corporate money to an ideology that he calls federalism, which is a, which he wants to abolish federal institutions including the EPA. He's been very open about that and now he's been put in charge of the EPA. He's going to do tremendous damage to that agency. He's going to do practical damage but he's also going to do damage to its principles and he's going to do moral damage to the agency

Thom Hartmann: I remember, most conspicuously perhaps from the Reagan administration, James Watt who was, you know, his Interior Secretary, who was selling off federal lands and the mineral rights thereto for pennies on the dollar, saying that it doesn't matter how badly despoiled they get because Jesus is going to make it all new again. And Ray Donovan, the guy who hated labor unions, that Reagan put in charge of the Labor Department. But is there a precedent? I mean, even those guys now, looking back, I'm almost nostalgic for it. Is there a precedent in history, in the history of the EPA, or for that matter some of these other picks as well? You know, a bankster running the Treasury? For someone to be in charge who's this close to the fossil fuel industry, or any industry for that matter?

Robert Kennedy Jr.: Well, yeah, I would say yes. During the Reagan administration, the head of the the BLM was a rancher who had vowed to destroy the BLM. You know, the head of EPA, of course, was James Watt. And then he had, there were 26 people at one point who were indicted and forced to leave the EPA. And almost all of them were in charge of the different departments of EPA and they had all come in from the industries that they were supposed to be regulating. So we've seen that before. During the George W Bush administration you had people like Jeffrey

Holmstead who was a lobbyist for the oil industry, who was the deputy director, as I recall, of EPA and again did tremendous damage.

So I think, you know, there has been over the past decades, when Republicans come in they oftentimes put people who are very hostile to the mission of the agency. If you don't believe, you know, Ronald Reagan said to the, told the American people that the federal government was the problem, and there's been at an entire generation of Republican lawmakers who have come up with that idea that government doesn't solve problems, government creates problems. And as you know, Grover Norquist has basically made the mantra of the Republican Party that you, that this idea that the Republican Party wants to shrink government in Norquist's words, not to destroy it completely but to get it small enough that you could stuff it in a bathtub and drown it. And those are his words.

You have people who are running the government now who don't believe in government. You know, I don't want to be, you know, be referencing my own family because it sounds kind of funny, but one of the things that President Kennedy really believed in was that government could make a difference in people's lives. And that's been kind of the core belief of liberalism, that government was there to even out the unfair aspects, topography of our society and make it fair for everybody and make it better for everybody. And with those liberal policies that, you know, particularly right after World War Two, that gave us what economists now call the great prosperity, those 50 years when we built the middle class in this country, when we built this country to own fifty percent of the wealth in the world on the planet. And most of that was through sweat equity, through people working hard because they were part of the middle class and that they believed that they could advance themselves.

And all of those institutions, and we did that by creating free educational opportunities for basically an entire generation and for providing a social safety net and helping people advance themselves. And there's been, as you know, over the past 40 years an effort to really hollow out that middle class. And so yes, in the past there have been really bad guys running departments including James Watt, and as you recalled, James Watt told a Senate committee that he didn't see any point in protecting the planet, the forest and the wild places because he didn't know how long the planet was going to even be here because he was an advocate of Dominion theology and a, you know, and an end of timer, and he thought that at any moment that Jesus was going to come back and destroy the planet, so why protect it?

And he gave away, you know, our great wilderness areas and geological treasures at fire-sale prices to the people who had paid to get him elected and who had financed the Heritage Foundation which drafted the blueprint for his, and ultimately what was run out, I think that the Reagan administration, the White House received a million letters or several million protesting. Every Indian tribe, recognized Indian tribe, signed a petition. It was the first time in history that that had ever happened.

Thom Hartmann: Wow.

Robert Kennedy Jr.: And people were angry about it because Americans don't want to have their, the commons, their environmental resources destroyed. They want clean air. They want clean water. Every poll shows that. And to put a guy like this in charge of that agency, which is the gatekeeper, which is supposed to safeguard our children's health, the public health, a guy who is shamelessly a creature of the oil industry and of the chemical industry is worrying, particularly at this time in history, because so many of the pots in the store have already been broken by the previous guys that were running it.

Thom Hartmann: Yeah. We just have a little over a minute left. The last time we talked it was about the Dakota Access Pipeline. The Army Corps, there seems to be a short-term victory here but Trump is taking office in fewer than two months. What are your thoughts briefly on this?

Robert Kennedy Jr.: Well, you know, what the Army Corps did and the Obama administration was a good thing, which is, they said an EIS is required. But the way that they did it, Thom, is not really Trump-proof, because there's the status of the current disposition is that the Corps has issued a finding no significant impact and they really need to change that finding and say it is, and officially withdraw that finding. In that case, a full EIS would be required and president Trump could not reverse that.

Thom Hartmann: Yeah.

Robert Kennedy Jr.: It's really kind of an illegal limbo the way that they did it now and I'm unclear as to why they did it that way. It would have been very easy for the court to Trump-proof this, but they didn't.

Thom Hartmann: Yeah, apparently they chose not to. It's tragic. Robert Kennedy Jr., thank you so much for being with us tonight.

Transcribed by Sue Nethercott.

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