RFK, Jr.’s Destructive Environmental Record

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. appears to be bringing anti-war message back to the Democratic Party. But his environmental rhetoric and record is more of the same green imperialism.

I woke up this morning to an overdraft alert from my bank: $295 auto payment for my Central Hudson electric bill. We are slowly paying down the $1,000 bill we received in February of 2022. And we were some of the lucky ones. Many people in New York’s Mid-Hudson Valley region received bills north of $5,000. Central Hudson has consistently cited the closure of Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant as one of the key reasons why our electric bills skyrocketed.

central hudson bill for over $1000
Yes, that is a screenshot of my actual electric bill

High energy bills seem to be the new normal for New Yorkers. In an October 2022 press release, Central Hudson listed “Several international, national and regional factors” contributing to inflated electricity bills:

  • Locally, the closure of Indian Point last year increased the region’s reliance on natural gas for power generation.
  • Supply and transportation pipeline constraints in the northeast continue to drive up prices during times of high demand;
  • Unrest in eastern Europe continues to have a significant impact on energy markets world-wide.

As Western NATO nations continue to wage proxy war against Russia in Ukraine, average Americans are being forced to foot the bill. Not only is Biden gifting millions of our hard-earned tax dollars to Ukrainian Neo-Nazis, but sanctions, unrest, and overt destruction of gas pipeline infrastructure has created a false scarcity scenario, and with it, higher fuel and electricity prices. It is becoming safer for  mainstream voices to oppose the conflict and call for peace. One of those voices is Robert Kennedy, Jr. who just announced his run for 47th President of the United States.

One priority on his website is Peace

Robert F. Kennedy will revive a lost thread of American foreign policy thinking, the one championed by his uncle, John F. Kennedy who, over his 1000 days in office, had become a firm anti-imperialist… He wanted to revive Roosevelt’s impulse to dissolve the British empire rather than take it over.

Our priority will be nothing less than to restore our moral leadership. We will lead by example. When a warlike imperial nation disarms of its own accord, it sets a template for peace everywhere. It is not too late for us to voluntarily let go of empire and serve peace instead, as a strong and healthy nation.

This is the type of policy a real American leader should be putting forth, and rightfully, Kennedy is gaining a lot of popular support, fast. Despite this, I’m still very, very scared about what a Robert Kennedy, Jr.  presidency would look like. RFK has never held office, but his influence is undeniable. His actions, advocacy and rhetoric, and their outcomes deserve a second look. 

Environmental Zealot

RFK Jr. was a major player in shutting down Indian Point Nuclear

“Nobody has been more important to Riverkeeper than Bobby Kennedy,” said Riverkeeper President Paul Gallay. In 2017, Spectrum News reported that, “Kennedy was an influential part in working to shut down Indian Point by 2021.”

“The agreement to close Indian Point is sort of a capstone for his career here at Riverkeeper,” Gallay said. “He has put in a tremendous amount of effort on behalf of closing Indian Point and supporting Riverkeeper. So I think having achieved this, he thought that perhaps this was a good time to focus on other matters.”

Kennedy said the win to close Indian Point was an important milestone for his career. Riverkeeper officials said they will continue their work and do their best to move forward without Kennedy.

For over 30 years, Kennedy served the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Hudson Riverkeeper as senior attorney and as a board member. These organizations are notorious as two of the most litigious and industrially destructive environmental organizations in the entire country. In 1999 Kennedy founded his own NGO, Waterkeeper Alliance, and Keeper Springs, a water bottling company that funneled its profits back into Riverkeeper and its affiliate organizations.

A screenshot of Keeper Springs, the for-profit water bottling company Kennedy started and used to fund the network of Waterkeeper NGOs

Kennedy, who is somewhat infamous for his egregious soundbites, has stated multiple times that “climate deniers” and “global warming skeptics” should be sent to jail.

In 2014 he addressed and defended his controversial statements in an article for EcoWatch titled Jailing Climate Deniers in which he clarified, saying he thinks corporations, not individuals should face punishment, “corporate death penalty” as he calls it:

I support the First Amendment which makes room for any citizen to, even knowingly, spew far more vile lies without legal consequence. 

I do, however, believe that corporations which deliberately, purposefully, maliciously and systematically sponsor climate lies should be given the death penalty. This can be accomplished through an existing legal proceeding known as “charter revocation.” State Attorneys General can invoke this remedy whenever corporations put their profit-making before the “public welfare.”

This puts a much more noble spin on his rhetoric, but what if we applied this notion of punishing entities that promote “climate lies”? In the 2017 press release that trumpeted the end of the decades-long battle to close Indian Point, Riverkeeper President Paul Gallay stated “Once Indian Point is closed, we won’t need to rely on fossil fuels to make up for its energy.” The release also said that the reactors were scheduled to cease operations within four years. Four years later, in 2021, a New York Times headline plainly stated “Indian Point Is Shutting Down. That Means More Fossil Fuel.” Does this qualify as “climate lies” punishable by organizational death in Mr. Kennedy’s eyes? 


Political Resume

Though RFK, Jr. has never held office, he’s no stranger to the political machine. In 1999, along with Lawrence Rockefeller, Kennedy endorsed Al Gore for his 2000 presidential run. “He’s our last best chance to save the planet,” said Kennedy.

A clip from Al Gore accepting an award at the 2011 Ripple of Hope Gala

Kennedy also maintained a close relationship with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo throughout the entire effort to close Indian Point. Theresa Knickerbocker, Mayor of Buchanan, New York, in an interview with Robert Bryce, referred to “three men in a room.”

“There were three people that made this decision to close Indian Point… it was Governor Cuomo, it was Riverkeeper, and it was also Entergy.” Former Governor Andrew Cuomo was married to Kennedy’s sister Kerry for 15 years, meaning they were brothers-in-law. This close relationship also explains why Kennedy was on Cuomo’s fracking commission, ultimately leading to a New York State fracking ban in 2013, and why he decided not to run against his brother-in-law in 2005 for New York Attorney General.

In 2008, President-elect Barack Obama put Kennedy on his shortlist to head the Environmental Protection Agency. He was ultimately passed over, likely because of his controversial statements, criminal record of heroin possession and his hypocritical stance as a “renewable energy NIMBY.” Kennedy once opposed the building of a wind energy farm off the coast of Cape Cod that would ruin the view from his vacation home.

Malthusian Environmental Agenda

In 2021, on the advice of Indian environmentalist Vandana Shiva, Sri Lanka banned all chemical fertilizers in favor of “organic” methods with disastrous results. Low harvest yield led to increasing prices and economic pressures which have resulted in “collapse” and protest. Shiva is regularly slammed as a pseudoscience peddler and NGO shill. She refers to petrochemical fertilizer as “poison.”

“This is my hero, Vandana Shiva, whom I have known for many, many years, who has been a role model for me, really” Says Kennedy, introducing Shiva as the very first guest on his podcast in 2021. Shiva has been on Kennedy’s podcast three times since he started, every episode references the long and close friendship the two have maintained. Indeed, Kennedy is supportive of Shiva’s “poison-free, fossil-free agriculture” crusade, and spoke on a panel at an event with that title in 2019.

A screenshot from a book hosted on Shiva’s organization website, Navdanya International

A closer look at the environmental policy on Kennedy’s current Presidential campaign website states:

First, we will shift agricultural subsidies so as to encourage regenerative practices. Today, a new generation of farmers and ranchers is building soil, replenishing groundwater, and detoxifying land, all while producing just as much food as conventional farmers and earning a decent livelihood.

Either Mr. Kennedy has not been reading the news about Sri Lanka, or he’s aware of the effect of Shiva’s organic, anti-science, low yield agricultural methods and is supporting those methods purposefully for their low yield results.

For more information about how important fossil fuels are for farming, listen to our latest podcast interview with Jusper Machogu, an agricultural engineer and farmer in Kenya Episode 031 Africa Needs Fossil Fuel.

Although Kennedy has never openly talked about overpopulation, it’s not hard to find powerful people on his side who are Malthusians. Fred Stanback, Jr., heir to his father and uncle’s aspirin business, lucked into an early investment in Berkshire Hathaway because he happened to be Warren Buffett’s roommate at Harvard. Stanback has used his fortune to make donations to population control organizations such as Population Connection – the organization formerly known as “Zero Population Growth” founded in 1968 by infamous neo-Malthusian and author of The Population Bomb, Paul Ehrlich. Stanback has given millions of dollars to Kennedy’s Waterkeeper Alliance, making him one of, if not the top donor to the organization.

Waterkeeper Alliance Annual Reports from 2012-2022 list Stanback as a donor in the range of $499,999-$200,000 in 2012, $500,000+ in 2013, $1,000,000+ in 2014 and 2015. Every year since 2016 Foundation for the Carolines is listed in the top category of $1,000,000+. Foundation of the Carolines is well known as the passthrough foundation for Fred Stanback, Jr’s philanthropic giving.

There are now 345 Waterkeeper groups in 48 countries.

Anti-imperialist, or Green Imperialist?

Kennedy is putting out an anti-imperialist message. He’s clearly against hot war. But does he actually represent soft power green imperialism? In the wake of Germany shutting its remaining nuclear plants, it seems like saner minds within the environmental movement are starting to realize how much of a misstep anti-nuclear zealotry has been. New York’s energy grid has become less reliable, more carbon-intensive and expensive as a result of the closure of Indian Point. It was clearly a disaster of a policy with extremely negative repercussions, for which New Yorkers are now paying the price. 

If Kennedy has remorse about Indian Point, he has yet to express it. Does America have room to absorb more industrial blunders like this? And it’s not just past mistakes, Kennedy seems to look admirably towards a woman who bears a large portion of the responsibility for Sri Lanka’s collapse through pseudoscientific agricultural policy.

Or is all of this on purpose? Should more scrutiny be put on the Malthusian leanings of one of Kennedy’s heaviest funders? Is there a hidden agenda behind Kennedy’s earnest, truth-telling persona? I will say this, I am glad that an anti-imperialist, anti-war, pro-sovereignty message is being pushed onto the highest political stage of the country at this moment in history. Ending the war in Ukraine, and de-escalating the threat of full-scale nuclear World War 3 is the most important issue we face right now as a global community. But we should be cautious of those who may be trying to trade a hot military war for an eco-Malthusian, economic war against the poorest, hungriest and least developed nations.

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