Clarity Blog

Clarity Blog

Possible Pick of RFK, Jr. for EPA Head Signals a New Age of Regulation

Tougher water quality regulations and higher energy costs may be on the horizon for the water industry.

The ballot-counting hasn’t even stopped and we are seeing signs of increased regulation ahead for the water industry under the administration of Barack Obama.Politico reports:

President-elect Barack Obama is strongly considering Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to head the Environmental Protection Agency, a Cabinet post, Democratic officials told Politico.

The selection of Kennedy would be a shrewd early move for the new presidential team. Obama advisers said the nomination would please both Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.).

It also would raise the profile of the EPA, which would help endear Obama to liberals who may be disappointed on other issues important to the Democratic left because of budget restrictions.

Robert Kennedy Jr. is the founder of Riverkeeper, which has been “franchised” through the Waterkeeper Alliance into 177 water quality watchdogs – Baykeeper, Coastkeeper, etc. – all with strong litigation support. He also is the co-director of the Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic and a senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Kennedy’s Waterkeeper Alliance got its feet wet suing pork producers, charging them with criminal conspiracy because contaminants from their production facilities might end up in rivers, streams and lakes. The lawsuit eventually was thrown out. He next went after pharmaceutical companies with similar charges – that pharmaceuticals would pass through livestock and cause water pollution.

He would also have a considerable impact on the water industry’s power costs, thanks to his interest in global warming. During the campaign, he said:

“A sophisticated, well-crafted energy policy designed to de-carbonize America is the centerpiece of Sen. Barack Obama’s domestic economic package.”

De-carbonizing energy production will come at substantial cost.

If Kennedy does in fact become EPA chief, water districts can expect a tougher regulatory environment and will need to stay abreast of proposed new water quality regulations and bills. Also expect greater awareness about water quality from your customers, and be prepared with strong messages that effectively communicate your district’s commitment to being a good steward of the environment.

If you have any comments or questions, please email me at, or call me at 949/599-1212

Laer Pearce is president of Laer Pearce & Associates, one of Southern California’s premier public affairs firms, specializing in regulatory issues and community outreach for the water and land development industries. For more information, please visit

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