Michigan companies sued by Kennedy’s watchdog group “RiverKeepers”
Robert F. Kennedy Jr. said Sunday at a forum of The Rotary World Peace Summit in Windsor that U.S. companies have made Windsor “the most polluted city in North America,” and he’s taking them to court to answer for the health toll they’ve taken.
RiverKeepers, Mr Kennedy’s environmental watchdog group, is taking Michigan companies, including power company DTE Energy, to court alleging they’re “damaging quality of life and public health here,” he said during a stop in Windsor.
“Mainly, the problem is Windsor is downwind from Detroit,” Mr. Kennedy told reporters. “A lot of the industries in Detroit, the air emissions make their way to Windsor. Windsor has some of the highest cancer rates, particularly thyroid cancer rates. Many other respiratory illnesses that are associated with pollution are more prevalent here than any other place in Canada. The air quality is regularly the worst in Canada. Windsor is downwind of a lot of really bad polluters.”
According to data from Cancer Care Ontario, the government-funded agency that provides cancer treatment, Windsor’s overall cancer rates are about the same as the provincial rate, although there are variations depending on the type of cancer. The incidence of lung cancer, for example, is higher here. The reasons for the variations have been the subject of debate among experts, some of whom point to emissions from diesel trucks, pollution from across the river, or pollution from coal-fired power plants in the Ohio valley.
Mr. Kennedy, an environmental activist, was in Windsor for the final day of The Rotary World Peace Summit. It brought 1,000 delegates here from around the world.
After an interfaith service with singing and prayers from the world’s major religions, Mr. Kennedy gave a speech called Our Environmental Destiny. He talked about the U.S. oil “addiction” that has caused wars and devastated America’s economy, prosperity and international prestige.
He lamented the practice of using up the world’s resources “for a few years of pollution-based prosperity.
“Our children are going to pay for our joy ride,” said Mr. Kennedy, nephew of the late president, John F. Kennedy. “Environmental injury is deficit spending. It’s a way of loading today’s prosperity on the backs of our children.”
He also talked about Windsor. Afterward, he told reporters his group is charging DTE Energy in Canada under Canada’s Fisheries Act, which states it’s illegal to pollute the waterways and allows citizens to independently prosecute offenders in criminal courts.
“If somebody does pollute and the government fails to enforce, then any citizen can step into the shoes of the Crown attorney and prosecute that polluter themselves,” Mr. Kennedy told reporters. “It’s a very powerful statute.”
RiverKeepers alleges the company’s power plants are depositing mercury into the Canadian side of the St. Clair River.
Contacted Sunday night, DTE Energy spokeswoman Lorie Kessler said because her firm is involved in litigation in Canada with Mr. Kennedy’s organization, she couldn’t comment on the allegations, but added all of DTE’s operations are in “full compliance” with state and federal emission regulations.
Ms. Kessler said she’s “somewhat baffled,” by the allegations. She said her firm is spending $1 billion to reduce emissions of mercury and other pollutants from its plants, including its plants on the water that are closest to Windsor.
Also, she said, DTE is “fully supportive” of State of Michigan measures to bring in mercury emission standards.
Mr. Kennedy said RiverKeepers has used the statute before in Canada. But this is the first time they’ve used it to charge an American company for pollution that was created in the United States and made its way to Canada. It’s something the government should be doing, he said.
“We would love the government to enforce the law themselves,” he said. “I wish the provincial government was suing Detroit Edison and prosecuting criminally. I wish the provincial government was suing all these corporations in Detroit who are diminishing the quality of life and injuring the health of children and adults here in Windsor.”
Mercury and lead exposure to children can reduce IQ, said Mr. Kennedy. He called it “child abuse.”
He said pollution here is also causing cancer.
“That’s assault and battery, and worse, because you can die from it,” Mr. Kennedy said. “And what’s the difference if you die from a brain tumour or if you die from a bullet? There’s no difference. This is crime — it’s real crime and it’s real victims. The province ought to be prosecuting it. We ought to be prosecuting it in Michigan.”
Allan Rock, a former federal justice minister and ambassador to the UN, said fixing pollution in Windsor’s waterways requires individuals becoming more aware of the challenges and what they can do, as well as pressuring governments to act.
He said governments must exercise their authority to reduce and eliminate “the pollution that’s all around us.
“The third thing it’s going to take is discovering a new way of doing things without the coal burning power plants, without the CO2 emissions from automobiles,” said Mr. Rock, honorary chairman of the summit. “Finding ways to use technology to bring greater economy prosperity while producing a cleaner environment.”
…this post forwarded by Windsor Humanist, Alexander Neil, after an April 28, 2008 article by Trevor Wilhelm in The Windsor Star