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Remarks as Prepared for Delivery by Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole at the Environment and Natural Resources Division Event Commemorating Earth Day 2014


Washington, DC
United States

Thank you Bob [Dreher] for that kind introduction and for inviting me to join you for the 44th anniversary of Earth Day.  

Let me begin by saying that the Attorney General and I greatly appreciate the work you do in the Environment and Natural Resources Division.  Your work helps protect our nation’s air, land and water and promotes responsible stewardship of America’s wildlife and natural resources.  If that weren’t enough of a responsibility, you also ensure that oil and Superfund waste are cleaned up, defend vital federal programs, and protect tribal rights and resources.  All of which are especially important today, at a time when we face significant environmental challenges: challenges from climate change, in developing alternative and sustainable sources of energy, and in combatting pollution and the public health risks that stem from it.  

This past year alone, you defended the EPA actions addressing greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.  You fought to uphold the Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to protect polar bears under the Endangered Species Act.  You secured changes in Safeway’s operations that will reduce the use of ozone depleting substances in their refrigeration equipment.  You successfully prosecuted criminals trafficking rhino horns and ivory, and defended challenges to more than 25 cases involving solar and wind projects.  And just last week, you successfully defended an EPA rule that will substantially reduce emissions of mercury and other toxic materials from power plants across the country.  

While I am only skimming the surface with these examples, they are tremendous accomplishments that will have an impact for generations to come.  The breadth and scope of the work that the Division handles is truly extraordinary.  In my experience and from the frequent praise I hear from client agencies that are impressed with the Division’s work, I know that you represent the Department of Justice and the United States with the utmost skill, professionalism, and integrity.    

Just two weeks ago I had the privilege of announcing the $5.15 billion settlement with the Kerr-McGee Corporation and its parent company Anadarko.  $4.4 billion of that settlement will go toward cleaning up the mess left by Kerr-McGee’s toxic businesses all over this country. This is the largest payment for the clean-up of environmental contamination in history - and it demonstrates the Justice Department’s firm commitment to securing environmental justice.  

Earth Day is another reminder to me of that commitment, a commitment that the Department of Justice is dedicated not only to protecting the people of our country, but also to protecting its natural resources.  Earth Day may have originated as a day of awareness of the environmental challenges we face, but it is also a day of action.  So today, we celebrate the actions you take every day to secure environmental justice across this country.  

I am privileged to be here in Marvin Gaye Park, to join the community in the important work they do to protect and conserve their environment for future generations.  I would like to take this opportunity to thank and acknowledge the graduates of the Green Corps program, as well as volunteers and employees of Marvin Gaye Park, and especially Steve Coleman, for their dedication to protecting our environment.  

Thank you for having me here.  It is a pleasure to join you.  Keep up the good work!

Updated September 17, 2014