Reason Writers Around Town: Peter Suderman Profiles Erin Brockovich in The Washington Times


Senior Editor Peter Suderman interviews environmental activist Erin Brockovich about Last Call At the Oasis, a new documentary about water issues, in today's Washington Times

The real Erin Brockovich doesn't look all that much like Julia Roberts. But with her shock of dyed-blonde hair, her spiffy black boots and her practiced, camera-ready smile, she nevertheless stands out in a room.

And much like her big-screen counterpart — Miss Roberts won an Academy Award for her feisty portrayal of Ms. Brockovich in the widely praised 2000 film that bears the activist's name — the real Erin Brockovich comes prepared to monologue.

Following the popular movie, which chronicled a legal fight against Pacific Gas & Electric in Hinkley, Calif., Ms. Brockovich became one of the country's most prominent environmental activists and legal attack dogs. At this point she's a practiced speechmaker, and she came to Washington in April ready to hold forth on problems with global water access, the subject of "Last Call at the Oasis," a new documentary in which she appears as a commentator.

Slickly produced but conventionally liberal, the film, opening nationally on Friday, relies exclusively on a handful of progressives and their narrow perspectives. Any solutions that fall outside those lines are all but ignored. Where property rights and privatization are mentioned, it's only to dismiss them. Market pricing for water goes unmentioned, as do decades of labyrinthine state-level distribution rules and pricing controls that have contributed substantially to water shortages in America's West.

Ms. Brockovich's many loud, public crusades against corporations, meanwhile, have not exactly endeared her to Republicans.

But over the course of an hour-long interview, many of this liberal hero's complaints focus on the Environmental Protection Agency — and their overseers in the Obama administration.

When it comes to environmental cleanup, Ms. Brockovich declares, "The EPA is absent." Asked whether the White House bears any responsibility for the agency's failures, she responds, "I don't think the current administration has done as much environmentally as I'd hoped or thought they'd do."

While some of Ms. Brockovich's complaints come from the left, there are times when she sounds more like one of the EPA's Republican critics.

Whole thing here