Robert F. Kennedy, Jr: “Coal is Crime”

On Monday, hundreds of activists gathered in downtown Portland, Oregon to protest a proposal that would allow coal transport trains to run from Montana and Wyoming through the Northwest, leaving coal ash everywhere in between. The lunchtime event featured multiple speakers, the highlight of which was Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., chief prosecuting attorney for Hudson Riverkeeper and president of the Waterkeeper Alliance.

Kennedy’s speech was both inspiring and terrifying. First, he told stories of West Virginia towns where big coal companies had promised prosperity and ultimately turned them into ghost towns. (“Coal doesn’t share its wealth. It makes a few people billionaires by impoverishing everyone else.”)

RFK, Jr speaking during the rally in Portland, OR.

He described previous lawsuits where coal companies were forced to obtain permits and abide by the law, only to have lobbyists redefine that law to make coal companies exempt from it. And he gave heart-wrenching stories and statistics about deaths and health problems that are happening all over the country because of coal.

“…Pollutants from coal burning power plants cost this country 345 billion dollars annually in healthcare costs. We can pay for Obamacare half a dozen times over, just by eliminating those two pollutants from coal burning power plants…. These are parts of the costs of coal that they don’t tell you about when they say it’s only 11 cents a kilowatt hour. They’re not telling you that out of your other pocket, you’re paying 345 billion dollars and burying 60,000 Americans every year.”

Being one of the foremost attorneys for the environment in the country, Kennedy also knew how to get the crowd riled up.

“If a foreign nation did to our country what the coal industry does to us every day,” he said, “we would consider it an act of war.”

The main message was clear: Once Portland lets coal companies into our city, it will be hard to get rid of them. “They are not coming here to bring you prosperity and jobs. They’re coming to ship their poison so they can poison the people in China. And that poison’s going to come back here and poison your salmon and your children, so don’t let it happen.”

You can help bring down big coal by signing petitions on Care2. Here are just a few:

Protect Yellowstone From Big Coal

Tell the EPA: Americans Want Industrial Carbon Pollution Protections

Protect Our Streams and Our Health from Toxic Mining Pollution

Photo by Emily Logan.


nicola w.
Jane H5 years ago

I wish he'd come to Tasmania and fight to stop our shocking timber industry -it can't even make a profit as they destroy High Conservation rainforest ...then we wonder why the Tassie devil is now endangered.

Ron B.
Ron B5 years ago

If I wasn't an agnostic, I'd say, "God bless you, Robert F. Kennedy Jr.!"

MarjorieMarjori Hass
Marjorie hass5 years ago

Way to go, Robert. I'm with you 100%.

Carl Oerke
Carl O5 years ago

Robert F. Kennedy is fighting hard for our environment with the River Keepers and now standing up against the interests of dirty coal. Way to go Robert. Don't give up we are with you in this fight!

Dieter Riedel
Dieter R5 years ago

Humans are slow in learning and greed does not care.

Roger Monk
Past Member 5 years ago

Coal. A 19th century power source. Why are we still using it?

Barbra Raymond
Barbra Raymond5 years ago

Interesting article. Didn't know anything about coal. Thanks!

Patricia A.
Patricia A5 years ago

In the early 80s I worked for a company that was trying to design and manufacture what they called a "Nucoalizer" that would clean coal. It was obviously a failure and there is no such thing as "clean coal". The coal industry is evil!

Jeffrey H.
Jeffrey H.5 years ago

Have you seen China's air?!
Coal-fired power plants are proliferating like fruit flies -- they build a big one daily, and you can see the results of it in their permanent "fog".
The Chinese don't get to see the sun during the daytime or the night sky with the stars twinkling and the Milky Way majestically running overhead. Burning coal killed astronomy in China.

jo Howard
jo Howard5 years ago

Most likely his financial interest is in supporting import of oil and stopping transport of coal across our nation, thus silver lining his own pockets, and nothing more.