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The Planet
Kerry ‘Gets It’

John Kerry, who helped organize Massachusetts’ first Earth Day, earns the Sierra Club’s endorsement

By Tom Valtin

"This year the choice for president could not be clearer," said Sierra Club President Larry Fahn, announcing in May the Club’s endorsement of John Kerry for president. "We are faced with a choice between the most anti-environmental president ever and a true friend who would bring to the office a dedication to improving all issues facing the environment. The past four years have witnessed an outright assault on 30 years of environmental progress, selection of staunchly anti-environmental judges, backroom deals with polluting industries—the list goes on."

The Club’s endorsement surprised few Sierra Club activists, who are by and large more familiar with the Bush administration’s environmental depredations than the average American. But even Club members may not realize the extent to which Kerry has been an environmental leader throughout his career in public service. In 1970, fresh back from service in Vietnam, he gave some of the first speeches of his career at Massachusetts’ first Earth Day, which he helped organize. As Massachusetts lieutenant governor he co-chaired the 1983 Acid Rain Task Force and issued the Call for Action Against Acid Rain Report, at the time one of the most comprehensive analyses of the damage caused by acid rain in this country.

As a senator, Kerry has consistently supported the Sierra Club’s agenda; the League of Conservation Voters this year gave Kerry a 96.5 percent career rating, the highest LCV rating of any presidential nominee ever from a major party. He has been a Senate leader on fuel efficiency, led the charge against the Bush administration’s attempts to allow oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and has strongly opposed the nominations of anti-environmental candidates for judicial and federal agency appointments. Kerry has championed legislation supporting Endangered Species Act protections, opposed efforts to open national monuments to drilling, voted to strengthen public lands protections, and opposed the Bush administration’s attempts to weaken Clean Air and Clean Water Act protections.

Kerry advocates removing the incentives in federal regulations and tax policy that encourage sprawl, and he favors restoring the Superfund Act’s "polluter pays" trust fund to clean up hazardous waste sites. He has promoted an energy policy that would reduce our dependence on oil, increase our energy efficiency, and increase the amount of clean, renewable energy used to generate electricity. In 1997 Kerry traveled to Kyoto to promote the climate control accords that President Bush subsequently shunned, and he has stated that as president he would work to re-establish the United States as a world leader on environmental policy.

The Sierra Club’s Political Committee sent an environmental questionnaire to all of the presidential candidates earlier this year, and interviewed the seven Democratic contenders who returned the questionnaires. (President Bush did not return his.) "Senator Kerry had an amazing grasp of the issues," reported Fahn. "This guy really gets it."

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