Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Looking back on Obama's campaign promise to hold companies accountable for environmental disasters

UPDATE: I'm having trouble with the audio player, so scroll to the bottom of this post and hit the pause button if you don't want to listen while you read.

Earlier today I was watching live webcam footage of BP's Deepwater Horizon oil gusher and was reminded of a conversation I had in 2008 with then-presidential candidate Barack Obama.

I interviewed Obama at a campaign event in Butte. We were maybe a mile from the edge of the Berkely Pit. I thought in light of the fact that he was making a campaign stop in the city that's home to one of the nation's largest environmental catastrophes, I'd ask him what he'd do to make sure that corporations would be held accountable for their messes in the future.

This was his response:

Adams: Butte’s home to one of the worst environmental in the country. We’ve (Montana) got the Libby asbestos mine, another example of resource extraction run amok. It's cost hundreds of people’s lives and millions of dollars to clean up. What would you do as president to make sure these companies are held accountable for their actions, and would you fight to properly fund federal agencies so that they can get these messes cleaned up, like the Superfund Program?

Obama: We’ve got to make the Superfund work. Look, I’ve got a lot of Superfund sites in Illinois. And this is a program that, because of special interest lobbying, resistance, the lack of a strong commitment of the EPA, has been withering on the vine. We’ve got to restore it and hold corporations accountable for the messes that they make.

They took these profits out of these communities, and the least they can do is restore some sort of environmental balance. This is something I’ve been fighting for, and this is something I will continue to fight for and actually implement when I’m President of the United States.

As the oil continues to gush out of the ocean floor, only time will tell if Obama will, or can, follow through on that campaign promise he made in Butte.

Here’s the full audio of the 2008 interview from the Mansfield-Metcalf Dinner in Butte, Montana.

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