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RFK Jr.'s environmental colleagues urge him to abandon presidential candidacy

by SuperiorInvest

As an independent candidate for the White House, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. claims he would be the “best environmental president in American history,” drawing on his past as a crusading lawyer who went after New York polluters.

But dozens of Kennedy's former colleagues on the Natural Resources Defense Council are calling on him to drop out of the race, in full-page ads sponsored by the group's political arm that are expected to appear in newspapers in six swing states on Sunday.

Separately, a dozen other national environmental organizations have published an open letter calling Kennedy “a dangerous conspiracy theorist and science denier” who promotes “toxic beliefs” about vaccines and climate change.

People involved in both efforts argue that Kennedy can't win the presidency, but could siphon votes away from President Biden and help elect former President Donald J. Trump, who called climate change a hoax and vowed to undo environmental laws and policies.

“A vote for RFK Jr. is a vote to destroy that progress and return Trump to the White House,” says the newspaper ad that will run in Georgia, North Carolina, Nevada, Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Signatories include John Hamilton Adams, who co-founded the Natural Resources Defense Council and hired Kennedy in the 1980s, as well as former presidents and the group's current president. They implore Mr. Kennedy to “Honor our planet, drop out of school.”

Kennedy was chief counsel for the Natural Resources Defense Council for about 28 years and resigned in 2014.

In a phone interview Thursday, Kennedy pushed back against the idea that he could bring Trump back to the White House.

“President Biden doesn't need my help to lose to Donald Trump,” Kennedy said. He avoided directly addressing the actions of Adams and other former colleagues, saying only that he and his mentor “don't agree with each other on policy.”

Instead, Kennedy criticized Biden and the environmental movement, which he said “is making a mistake by settling for the crumbs the Biden administration has given us.”

Former colleagues in environmental circles were candid in their assessments of Kennedy.

“The Bobby I knew is no more,” said Dan Reicher, a senior energy researcher at Stanford University's Woods Institute for the Environment. Reicher worked with Kennedy at NRDC and said he had a decades-long personal friendship with Kennedy, including rowing together on rivers in the United States and Chile.

Gina McCarthy was administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency under President Barack Obama and then became president of NRDC during the Trump administration, only to return to national service as Biden's climate adviser until last year.

“If people remember him as an environmentalist, he's not one anymore,” he said of Kennedy. “He is against science, he is against vaccines, he talks nonsense about the climate. I don’t know what he represents.”

Adams said in a statement: “I mentored Bobby when he was a young environmentalist. I don't recognize the person he has become. “His actions are a betrayal of our environment.”

The rebuke from Kennedy's professional colleagues comes after his brothers and sisters and other members of the Kennedy family endorsed President Biden at a campaign rally in Philadelphia on Thursday. Mr. Kennedy is the nephew of former President John F. Kennedy and the son of former Attorney General and presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy. Family members have said they are concerned that Kennedy could tilt the race toward Trump.

Trump allies have been discussing ways to elevate third-party candidates like Kennedy in key states to siphon votes away from Biden. They are seeking to highlight Kennedy's record as an environmentalist in hopes of easing some progressive voters frustrated by the fact that under the Biden administration, the country has produced record levels of oil and gas.

“The path to victory here is clearly to maximize the reach of these left-wing alternatives,” Stephen K. Bannon, a former White House chief strategist who also served as campaign chairman, told The New York Times earlier this month. of Trump in 2016. .

Mr. Kennedy's views on climate change are unconventional. He agrees with the overwhelming scientific opinion that carbon dioxide and methane, two greenhouse gases, are warming the planet, and that the evidence is visible. “All my senses are telling me that warming is happening,” he said in a video he posted on X in July.

But in the same video, he also said that a “war on carbon” was not the answer and that “this crisis is being used as a pretext to clamp down on totalitarian controls.” He said the actors behind the crackdown were “the intelligence agencies, the World Economic Forum, the Davos billionaire club” and that their goal was to make the rich richer. But moments later, he said free markets would solve the climate crisis.

Kennedy said he opposed federal subsidies for carbon capture and storage, a technology to capture greenhouse gas emissions from power plants or industrial processes before they reach the atmosphere, where they drive global warming. . Kennedy called it a “huge and useless waste for the industry” and criticized Biden for agreeing to include those subsidies in the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, the president's landmark climate law.

Many environmental activists also oppose carbon capture technology because they want the nation to stop burning fossil fuels and instead turn to wind, solar, and other clean energy sources.

But Kennedy's agenda does not include any clear policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

He said Thursday that eliminating fossil fuel subsidies and stricter enforcement of existing laws like the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act would be enough to fight climate change. President Biden has tried three times to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies, and each time Congress has restored them. And in recent rulings, the conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court has limited the Biden administration's ability, under existing laws, to regulate greenhouse gases.

Kennedy also said the environmental movement was making “a huge tactical mistake” by focusing on climate change instead of less divisive environmental issues.

He accused Biden of turning his back on the environment by approving Project Willow, an $8 billion oil drilling project in Alaska; for overseeing record oil and gas production; and for signing the Inflation Reduction Law, which guarantees the continuity of offshore oil extraction.

“It's hard to understand how the environmental movement is now saying this is OK,” Kennedy said. “I think we need a broader vision for the environment.”

Manish Bapna, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council Action Fund, the political arm of the environmental nonprofit, noted that Kennedy had also criticized federal subsidies that boosted domestic manufacturing of electric vehicles and batteries and the solar and wind production. in the U.S.

“Voters who care about the environment should not be fooled,” Bapna said.

Biden has enacted the most aggressive climate agenda of any president. In addition to the Inflation Reduction Act, which will provide more than $370 billion for clean energy over the next decade, it is limiting auto emissions, is set to reduce carbon pollution from power plants and has controlled future oil and gas drilling by limiting the available tracts of land and water that companies can lease.

The political ad does not discuss Kennedy's record as a lawyer who helped clean up the Hudson River and started a global movement to protect the waterways.

Kennedy was named an Earth Hero by Time magazine in 1999 for his work with the Riverkeeper organization, one of the groups credited with cleaning up the Hudson. As founder of the Waterkeeper Alliance, he successfully fought to close a New York landfill that was contaminating the water supply and helped defeat dams in Chile and Peru.

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