Rudy Giuliani addresses a crowd recently in New Hampshire. (2007 Bill Fish Photography)
What sort of environmental president would "America's Mayor" Rudy Giuliani be? Giuliani's environmental platform remains vague but Living on Earth's Jeff Young finds some clues in the way Giuliani handled the cleanup of the 9-11 attacks, and in the company he keeps on Washington's K Street.
CURWOOD: Americans just marked the sixth anniversary of the September 11th terror attacks.
But now the mayor faces criticism from some of his city’s emergency responders who say his administration failed to protect them from the toxic dust that spread over lower Manhattan.
Today Living on Earth begins a special series, looking at Election ‘08 and the Green issues on the road to the White House. Our Washington correspondent Jeff Young has our profile of republican hopeful, Rudy Giuliani.
[SIRENS, CHAOS ON STREETS OF NEW YORK AFTER 9-11]
YOUNG: It is one of the iconic images from 9-11: New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani
emerging from the dust of collapsed buildings to reassure his city.
GIULIANI: And I’d ask the people of New York City not to be frightened, to go about their lives as normal. Everything is safe right now in the city. And the people who are doing the relief effort need all the help they can get.
YOUNG: Giuliani’s action that day made him, as Time magazine put it, ‘America’s Mayor.’ It also launched his national political career. But decisions Giuliani made in the days and weeks following 9-11 are coming under fire. Many of the emergency responders and workers who removed debris from ground zero are sick, and many of them blame city officials for their exposure to toxic dust.
[CAPITOL HILL HALLWAY SOUNDS]
YOUNG: This summer, 9-11 workers crowded a congressional hearing on the federal government’s mismanagement of health threats at ground zero. Afterward, ironworker Richard Prager said the city is also to blame.
PRAGER: The city did nothing to protect workers. They did nothing, they really didn’t. It’s my fault I’m sick, basically is what they_re telling me.
YOUNG: Retired New York police detective Rich Volpe says he has some questions for
VOLPE : I’d like to ask him what he didn’t do. And I have the answer to that: he didn’t shut down the site. He put thousands and thousands of people in danger for Wall Street to be opened. ‘What didn’t he do?’ That’s more the question to be asked.
[CAPITOL HALLWAY SOUNDS FADE OUT]
YOUNG: Workers like these say that safety precautions at the ground zero work site were inadequate and that the mayor bowed to business pressure to speed ahead with the cleanup rather than protect public health. In their eyes, the event that made Giuliani’s political reputation also provides disturbing insight into his environmental leadership.
KUPFERMAN: It’s an oxymoron. Mayor Giuliani was anything but an environmental leader.
YOUNG: That’s Joel Kupferman, director of the New York Environmental Law and Justice Project. He represents some of the sick 9-11 workers in a lawsuit against the federal government. Kupferman says documents obtained in that case indicate the city also put workers and residents at risk. In October 2001, New York associate public health director Kelly McKinney wrote a memo about reopening sections of the city near ground zero. Here, Kupferman reads what McKinney wrote about a meeting with the city’s Office of Emergency Management, or OEM.
KUPFERMAN: The mayor’s office is under pressure from building owners and business owners in the red zone to open more of the city to occupancy. DEP, that’s the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, believes that air quality at those locations is not yet suitable for re-occupancy. Following the meeting I was told that the mayor’s office - this is the mayor’s office - was directing OEM to open target areas next week.
YOUNG: McKinney did not respond to a request to clarify his memo. Kupferman says it shows a Mayor pressing to reopen parts of the city too quickly.
KUPFERMAN: There was still dust in people’s buildings, there was still dust on the streets. He was so gung ho of getting Wall Street open that he basically put environmental science to the winds.
YOUNG: Giuliani’s supporters vehemently deny that.
SHEIRER: It’s a false accusation; it’s not true. We did everything we can to make sure that we got people back into their homes and business as safely as possible.
YOUNG: That’s Richard Sheirer, who directed the Office of Emergency Management under Mayor Giuliani. Sheirer is now with Giuliani Partners, a security consulting company. The Giuliani campaign directed questions about the 9-11 health issues to Sheirer. Sheirer says he sympathizes with those who are sick but he dismisses their criticism.
SHEIRER: Well, it’s easy to sit here six years afterwards and look back on the situation with shoulda coulda wouldas. The criticism that they make today is, you know, looking back and getting information that wasn’t available to us then. We did everything possible to make sure that it was a safe worksite. Nobody at those days and the time right after foresaw what would happen and where we’d be today.
YOUNG: Today Rudy Giuliani leads the Republican pack in the presidential race. He rarely strays from his core message of national security. Questions on other topics, say global warming, become answers about energy security, as in this forum in New Hampshire.
GIULIANI: Energy independence should be for us, it should be what putting a man on the moon was to the generation in the 1950s and 1960s and 1970s. It should be a major government enterprise, private enterprise, and we should further every single one of the alternatives. My major concern is that lack of energy independence is a national security problem. The idea that all this money is flowing particularly to parts of world where they_re breeding, uh, Islamic terrorism is very, very dangerous.
YOUNG: Giuliani supports expanding energy production across the board: renewable energy as well as coal, nuclear and more domestic oil and gas production. His answer demonstrates a detailed knowledge of energy issues. But when it comes to how government should act, he’s a bit more vague.
GIULIANI: I don’t like mandates. I don_t think mandates generally work and I think mandates are somewhat inconsistent with the kind of economy and the kind of society that we have.
YOUNG: Giuliani’s top advisor on energy issues is John Herrington, who served as President Ronald Reagan’s energy secretary. Herrington says Giuliani would open new areas to oil drilling, including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, but realizes the country must develop new transportation fuels. And while Giuliani calls global warming a serious problem, Herrington says he rejects the remedy most advocates of climate action propose: a cap on carbon emissions.
HERRINGTON: Number one, it has not worked in Europe. Number two, you raise the price of energy to all consumers. So it’s better to address the issue not through some sort of regulatory environment. It’s better that we go to sources of energy that don’t have as much emissions, and that would be a nuclear power option.
YOUNG: Herrington says Giuliani’s goal would be to increase nuclear to become 25 percent of the country’s electricity mix. It’s currently about 20. All this leaves environmentalists, like Gene Karpinski of the League of Conservation Voters, lukewarm.
KARPINSKI: The good news is he acknowledges the fact that global warming is real and it’s at least in part being caused by humans. But the bad news is that he’s got no plan to solve it. That sounds a lot like George Bush. If you’re not for mandates, you’re not serious about solving the problem.
YOUNG: Karpinski also gets little encouragement from the company Giuliani has kept
since leaving the Mayor’s office.
KARPINSKI: One is that he’s got the largest contributions by far from the oil and gas industry this year. Secondly, the firm that he’s associated with is one of the most anti-environmental firms in Washington, D.C.
YOUNG; That law firm is Bracewell and Giuliani. It does lobbying and legal work for some of the nation’s biggest polluters, including coal burning power plants, oil refineries, and, in one case, even the Saudi Arabian oil ministry. Their lobbyists are omnipresent and outspoken at Washington environmental events. When the U.S. Supreme Court heard a global warming case, Bracewell and Giuliani lawyer Scott Segal took to the courthouse steps to defend the Bush administration’s inaction on climate change.
SEGAL: EPA was correct not to regulate. Adopting unilateral, mandatory carbon caps is the wrong way to go.
YOUNG: But Segal is uncharacteristically silent on Mr. Giuliani’s work at the firm. He says the Giuliani campaign calls the shots on such interview requests. The campaign did not respond.
Meanwhile, many of the firm’s partners, employees and influential clients add big money to the Giuliani campaign. At least two of the firm’s employees are now among Giuliani’s cash bundlers—people who round up more contributors for the campaign ahead.
For Living on Earth, I’m Jeff Young in Washington.
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