RFK Jr. vs. Environmentalists on NY Bottled Water Bill

2 06 2009

EDITOR’S NOTE: Elizabeth Benjamin of the NY Daily News has been providing excellent coverage of the flap between RFK Jr. and…well, just about everyone here lately.

New York’s environmentalists, the mayor, the governor and of course, those evil bottlers of sugary drinks (that’s nearly every drink on the market) are all up in arms over his latest New York Times OpEd piece which harshly criticizes New York’s so-called “bottle bill.”

Kennedy is currently litigating an industry-sponsored lawsuit against the bottled water bill, and managed to temporarily block it’s June 1st implementation pending outcome of the suit.

Environmentalists Say: Et Tu, RFK Jr.?

May 29, 2009

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s friends in the environmental movement felt blindsided by his New York Times OpEd, which was sharply critical of New York’s newly expanded bottle-deposit law, Bill Hammond reports.

Kennedy penned the piece – and joined an industry-sponsored lawsuit against bill, which has successfully blocked its planned June 1 implementation – without so much as giving a heads-up to supporters who assumed he was an ally.

“He didn’t have the courtesy of communicating with any of the groups that are part of the coalition,” said Laura Haight of the New York Public Interest Research Group. Supporters include two groups that Kennedy has been affiliated with, Riverkeeper and the Natural Resources Defense Council. 

Haight also sharply objected to Kennedy’s arguments, especially the claim that the law was “cooked up by makers of sugared drinks and their allies in the Legislature” because the expansions extended only to water, and not flavored beverages.

(“A Bottle Bill That Will Rot Your Teeth” was the headline of Kennedy’s opus).

Haight said the Legislature excluded flavored drinks in deference to grocery stores who complained that sugary residue in returned bottles and cans would attract vermin into their stores.

Environmentalists accepted the compromise because water accounted for 70% of the beverage containers not already covered, she said.

Kennedy, the son of RFK and nephew of JFK, is best known as an environmental attorney. He was mentioned as a potential replacement for Hillary Clinton in the US Senate (for the seat once held by his father), but stepped aside to let his cousin, Caroline Kennedy, take center stage.

And we all know how that turned out.

He also briefly considered an AG run in 2006, creating a brief flurry of excitement among political reporters anxious to cover a race that pitted him against Andrew Cuomo, the ex-husband of his sister, Kerry Kennedy. (Sadly, that was not to be, either).

But, as Kennedy acknowledged toward the end of his OpEd, he’s also a water bottler – as chairman of Keeper Springs, a company that donates after-tax profits to environmental causes.

This makes him part of an industry that lobbied hard to block the so-called “Bigger Better Bottle Bill,” and he echoed the arguments of industry lobbyists in his article and in an affidavit he filed in support of the lawsuit.

“He’s obviously carrying water for the bottled water companies,” Haight said. 

Haight said Kennedy called her Thursday to apologize for not contacting her sooner. He agreed to meet with her and other supporters of the law and correct any factual mistakes he may have made in his affidavit, she said.

Read more: “The Daily Politics – NY Daily News” – http://www.nydailynews.com/blogs/dailypolitics/2009/05/environmentalists-say-et-tu-rf.html#ixzz0HGRgwA9x&A


Sheekey To RFK Jr.: Put A Cork In It

May 29, 2009

To the list of people upset at Robert F. Kennedy Jr. for his anti-Bottle Bill OpEd add Deputy Mayor Kevin Sheekey.

The Bloomberg administration sent over the following statement – unsolicited – from Sheekey this afternoon in response to our earlier report about the parting of ways between NYPIRG and the self-professed environmentalist/bottler.

“To be honest, Robert F Kennedy Jr.’s actions are surprising. For someone who has been a champion of the environment, it is unfortunate that his own personal agenda takes precedence over important policy that is years overdue. One can only hope he reconsiders his position. If not, then he is sadly no different than any other special interest.”

It’s no secret that Mayor Bloomberg is big into all things green, although I can’t recall him making much of a big push for the Bottle Bill before this.

But the fact that it’s Sheekey and not the mayor himself putting the verbal smackdown on RFK Jr. is a fascinating development.

Recall Sheekey’s heavy-handed involvement in the effort to land Hillary Clinton’s US Senate seat for Caroline Kennedy, who just so happens to be RFK Jr.’s cousin.

In fact, Sheekey’s efforts on Caroline Kennedy’s behalf were so extensive – not to mention overt – that there was an attempt by some of her advisors to muzzle him for fear of him tanking her altogether with key players like Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (who eventually got on the pro-Caroline train – not that it helped her any in the end).

Needless to say, Sheekey did not oblige.

Instead, he went on to make very public statements about the fact that his “friend” Caroline was in fact the only one of the candidates vying for Clinton’s seat who had backed Barack Obama for president and thus would be better able to work with him in Washington.

I’m not sure that this a shot across the bow or a sign that City Hall plans to get heavily involved in the Bottle Bill battle, which would, of course, endear the mayor to the Paterson administration at a time when he just so happens to be seeking permission for some revenue-generating new taxes (much to the Council’s chagrin).

Either way, interesting.

Read more: “The Daily Politics – NY Daily News” – http://www.nydailynews.com/blogs/dailypolitics/2009/05/sheekey-to-rfk-jr-put-a-cork-i.html#ixzz0HGZcpT5w&A




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