Teddy Kennedy's environmental legacy

As commentators, politicians, and friends mourn the death of Senator Edward Kennedy, much of the discussion has focused on the issue that the Senator himself described as “the cause of my life”: health care reform. A tweet from fellow green blogger Chris Baskind reminded me that Kennedy also had a strong record on environmental issues. Just a few of his accomplishments on this front:

  • Targeting the “oil depletion allowance”: according to a list of accomplishments available on his Senate website, in 1975, Kennedy was responsible for trimming a rather generous tax deduction for oil producers.

  • Co-sponsoring fuel efficiency standards: Kennedy co-sponsored the original legislation establishing CAFE standards, and also supported the ’07 increase in those standards.

  • Supporting mass transit: Kennedy fought to keep Amtrak funded, and to also raise “the monthly amount of the employer-based federal mass transit tax benefit from $105 to $200,” putting it on par with a federal parking tax benefit.

Of course, Kennedy also raised the ire of many environmentalists in a least one case: he was adamantly opposed to the Cape Wind project off of Nantucket Sound.

Maybe it wasn’t “the cause of his lifetime,” but Senator Kennedy clearly had an impact on environmental policy and legislation during his storied tenure in the Senate. Other issues will likely receive more attention in the next few days, but it’s worth considering — and perhaps even debating — Kennedy’s environmental legacy.

So, what do you think? Will Kennedy be remembered as a champion of environmental protection and conservation? Should he be? Share your thoughts…

Image credit: Kennedy’s official photo via Wikimedia Commons