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The Alabama connection to RFK, Jr., who thinks global warming skeptics should be jailed

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. of Waterkeeper Alliance (left) and Nelson Brooke of Black Warrior Riverkeeper (right)
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. of Waterkeeper Alliance (left) and Nelson Brooke of Black Warrior Riverkeeper (right)

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., the son of former U.S. Senator and U.S. Attorney General Robert F. “Bobby” Kennedy and nephew of former President John F. Kennedy, made national headlines on Monday when he announced to the world that he thinks there should be a law by which global warming skeptics could be jailed.

“I wish there were a law you could punish them under,” he said. “I don’t think there’s a law you could punish (the) politicians under, but do I think the Koch brothers should be prosecuted for reckless endangerment? Absolutely.”

The Koch brothers are a pair of billionaire conservative industrialists who have drawn the ire of liberal politicians and activists for their ardent support of the free market and conservative causes.

“Do I think the Koch Brothers are treasonous? Yes I do,” Kennedy continued. “They are enjoying making themselves billionaires by impoverishing the rest of us. Do I think they should be in jail? I think they should be enjoying three hots and a cot at The Hague with all the other war criminals.”

Kennedy’s remarks were made during the “People’s Climate March” in New York City, which the Associated Press estimates included over 100,000 protestors calling for government action on climate change.

But while Alabamians might be quick to dismiss the Climate March and Kennedy’s comments as having taken place in the far-off liberal bastion of the great northeast, there is actually a direct Alabama connection to the whole ordeal.

RFK, Jr., has made his living as an environmental attorney and activist. Most notably, he is the president of a liberal environmental group called Waterkeeper Alliance.

According to Waterkeeper’s website, they have over 200 affiliated local groups across the country, including at least seven in Alabama.

Among those groups is Black Warrior Riverkeeper, whose executive director, Nelson Brooke, has been one of the foremost anti-economic growth environmental activist in the state in recent years. Most recently, Brooke led a group of environmental organizations in a lawsuit to block the Northern Beltline. Once completed, the beltline will be a 52-mile highway running from Interstate 59 in northeast Jefferson County to the Interstate 459 and I-20/59 junction in southwest Jefferson County. A U.S. District Court judge ultimately ruled against the environmental groups, finding their requests to be “useless and redundant.”

Yellowhammer reached out to Brooke today for his thoughts, but was only able to speak with another individual at Black Warrior Riverkeeper who did not disclose her name.

“Waterkeeper Alliance functions as an umbrella organization — basically a trade association — for us and other local groups,” she explained. “They connect us together to share resources and ideas.”

She declined to discuss whether their organization agreed with RFK Jr. that climate change deniers should be jailed, other than to say that “In context, it’s not as definitive as you think.” For further comment, she said Yellowhammer would need to speak with Mr. Brooke, but he has not returned our calls.

The statewide Alabama Rivers Alliance, which also functions under RFK, Jr.’s Waterkeeper umbrella, received a $40,000 matching grant from the San Francisco-based Energy Foundation “to accelerate the retirement of coal-fired power plants in Alabama.”

Financial disclosures released by the Energy Foundation revealed late last year that millions of dollars had been funneled to local Alabama environmental groups with the stated purpose of shutting down coal-fired power plants.

Unfortunately this “war on coal” hit home in Alabama in August, as Alabama Power announced that federal environmental mandates forced them to close two of the state’s coal-fired units and transition two others from coal to natural gas, resulting in a reduction in workforce.

Yellowhammer also detailed for months environmental groups’ efforts to hijack Alabama Public Service Commission (PSC) hearings under the guise of advocating for lower energy rates for consumers.

So although RFK Jr.’s comments and the climate change protests took place in another part of the country, they undoubtedly have a direct impact on the Yellowhammer State as well.


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