Robert “Bobby” F. Kennedy Jr Speaks at Standing Rock
Yesterday, November 15, 2016, Bobby Kennedy Jr. came to stand with us at the Oceti Sakowin Camp. He gave us encouragement and set a gauntlet for others to follow in his footsteps and support democracy by standing with Standing Rock. Below is the transcript of his speech which I recorded [due to back ground noise, certain parts of it were very hard to make out].
It is an honor for us to be here and meet all of you who have been on the front lines of this battle. It’s a battle that’s protecting all of us. I and my family have a long relationship with to — with your people, the Lakota people and it began in the 1960s. In 1968 I went to the Pine Ridge Reservation with my father during the presidential election. He went on that reservation — and I had never seen my father cry before — and he saw a family that was living in a burned out shell of a — of an automobile. And it made him cry. And the people saw that and the word spread around the reservation and a month later when my father was… just before he died on June 6 in 1968 he was in the California Primary, but the returns came in from South Dakota the same day; and the returns showed that 99 percent of the people on the Pine Ridge Reservation, the Rosebud Reservation, had supported my father and that made him win this Native South Dakota which gave him extraordinary joy just before he died.
He felt that he loved our country. He felt that we were exemplary nation, that we had to be a template for democracy for the rest of the world; but he also felt that our nation would never live up to its promise and it’s idea if it didn’t first go back and make amends to the Native people who are the platform on which our democracy was built, the genocide of those people. And to me it’s disheartening that fifty years after his death, were now in the 21st century, and the same battles that happened 500 years ago with the Native people are happening today. And here we have a company that is acting in an illegal way, it’s breaking the law, it’s an outlaw company, and there are peaceful people from reservation and from three hundred Indian tribes all across North America who’ve come together peacefully to say, “We just want law and order. We want people to live out according to laws, their promises, to treaties, to the environmental laws, and the US constitution and this company is breaking the law.”
You can’t build a pipeline without doing an environmental impact statement. Ask the people who made the XL Pipeline. The reason that they — the loophole that they are using is a loophole this — they’re violating the first environmental law and the most important environmental law that we passed. Before even Earth Day, in 1969 we passed NEPA, the National Environmental Policy Act, and that act said that, for the first time, it said that anybody, or any company, or anybody else that wants to diminish the value of publicly owned lands, or commons, or, uh, or do a large project that’s going to change the use of public resources, that first, they have to do a cost benefit analysis and we call that an environmental impact statement. They have to show how this project is effecting people who, what the benefits are to our country, and what the costs are.
Our congress recognized that for some projects that required a federal permit, if you wouldn’t would to do a full environmental impact statement for — very small projects. And in fact the thing that they discussed at that time is that if you have a dock that goes out into the water, into the ocean, you need a corp of engineers permit to replace a pylon. Does that person have to do a full environmental impact statement? And congress said no, we don’t want that to happen for de minimus projects, for inconsequential projects, we’ll let them do something else, an environmental assessment. But they have to be a project that has minimal impact and minimal potential for impact and it also has less than one acre of impact.
Well this pipeline, using bald chicanery, said that they’re going to take advantage of that environmental assessment, that shortcut. They’re pretending that this pipeline which is 1200 miles long is a one-acre project. Well that’s just a lie! It’s clearly illegal. Their clearly breaking the law. And the people of this camp are standing up and saying “All we want is law and order. All we want is compliance with the federal law.” And the state instead of supporting the people who are asking for law and order, is deploying the awesome military power of this state against the people who are asking for law and order on behalf of the criminal, on behalf of the person who is breaking our [wind masks word], and who is breaking the law. And this is a, this, what’s happening here is a metaphor for what’s been happening for the last 500 years. With the treaty of Laramie and all these other examples where the Native people sign a treaty or they’re assured what they law should be and then a wealthy individual, a wealthy company sees something shiny on the land that they want and the federal government and the state government, instead of saying, “Well, there’s a law that prohibits you from doing that.” is deploying sound weapons, and tear gas, an uh, and pepper spray and all of these other weapons against the people who are just sitting here demanding law and order.
So, what you’re fighting for is critical to our country and it’s critical to humanity. You are the spirited, you are the front lines of the battle to transition from dirty energy of the past to the clean energy of the future. Away from the dirty, filthy, addictive, poisonous fuels from hell and bring in wholesome and patriotic fuels from heaven.
I want to say one thing. I am in the energy business. I have built power plants. And my companies built two, the two largest power plants, the two largest renewable power plants in North America. And I can tell you what it cost to build a solar array plant. Then one we built in the Mojave desert seven years ago cost 3 billion dollars a gigawatt, a solar plant. Today that plant would cost 2.4 billion dollars a gigawatt. Well, to build a coal plant cost 3 billion dollars. To build an oil plant cost 3 billion dollars. To build a gas plant cost 3 billion dollars. To build a nuke plant cost 15 billion. We can make energy by burning prime rib, if we wanted to. [laughter] But why would we use the most expensive form of energy that’s out there? And the oil companies know that, and the coal companies know that, and they know that their time is over.
The message is so obvious about the cheapness of renewable power. And the last two years the two biggest — three biggest coal companies in America, Arch Coal and Peabody, have lost 95% percent of their value because the market knows that: Carbon is dead. It’s dead and it’s still walking around, but it’s dead. The oil industry knows that, they see what the future is, and they’re protecting themselves by building infrastructure, by wrapping this nation in pipelines. And that’s why you see this huge drive to build more and more pipelines today.
When they build this pipeline, it’s not the oil company alone that’s putting money into the pipeline. It’s Citibank, and it’s Wells Fargo, and it’s the pension funds, and it’s the teachers union and police union, and all these other powerful entities that are now invested in making sure there is oil going through that pipe for the next 30 years, long after economic bash now threatening oil, or coal, or any other carbon industry, energy has expired. So the way that they want to maintain their market dominance is by anchoring this nation, by binding this nation up and shackling us to their infrastructure. And they already have 23 trillion dollars of infrastructure around. And if you look what the Koch brothers are doing, the Koch brothers are going state by state and nationally to change the laws to make it very easy to make pipelines, and LNG facilities, and coal export facilities and oil export facilities, and almost impossible to build transmission lines in this country because transmission lines are the vehicles for renewable power. So they made it very difficult to build transmission and very easy to build pipelines. And that’s why in the last 12 years we have built 16 thousand miles of pipeline in this country and only 600 miles of transmission lines. The reason for that is because that is the strategy for the oil industry to maintain control.
They could not function in a free market economy on a level playing field. The only way they — they pretend to be — to like free market capitalism, but if you look at their feet rather than listen to the seductive noises that come from their mouth, they hate free market capitalism. What they want is corporate crony capitalism. They want a very brutal capitalism, merciless barbaric capitalism for the poor and very cushy socialism for the rich; and that is what this pipeline is about. It’s socialism for the rich. It’s subsidized oil industry boondoggle that is victimizing everybody in this country and the rest of humanity.
And this is the front line in the battle — for not — you know, anywhere that you see large scale pollution or environmental injury of this kind, you know all [are] associated with subversion of democracy. You’ll see the corruption of public officials, as usual and in this case. Donald Trump and the governor are getting these huge campaign contributors, $168,000 in campaign contributions. It’s through the capture of the agencies that are supposed to protect us from pollution — the regulators get captured by the industry they’re supposed to regulate and they become sock puppets for the industry and that’s exactly what’s happening with the federal regulatory commission here. The gave these guys — even though they couldn’t give them a permit — they gave them illegal permission to condemn people’s lands and build this pipeline even without a — because they legally couldn’t give them a permit. Oh and you see the disappearance of transparency in government and you’ll see the disappearance, the obliteration, of local sovereignty, local control, local democracy which is the foundation for democracy. The planning laws disappear with the zoning laws, the capacity for people to have a voice in what goes on in their backyards disappears.
This is a boondoggle that is going to make a few people like Donald Trump, a few billionaires even richer while impoverishing the rest of us. And what we’re fighting for here is not just energy policy, not just the environment, but it is democracy and it’s all the other things we value. And all of the people in our country who are good honored people who have a vision of this country — of the idealistic goal that is supposed play in human history — need to come to Standing Rock or need to find a way to support what you’re doing here. Because the battle that you’re fighting is a battle for all of us, so on behalf [shouts of thanks, joy, and spirit filled solidarity obscures these words], thank you!”