Politics & The Environment

Volume 23, Number 2, Fall 2008

Obama vs. McCain on Environment, Energy, and Resources
For the first time in living memory, the environment is receiving significant attention in a presidential election. Both Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) have given speeches and run television advertisements on the issue and (after a slow start) are being asked questions by the national press about where they stand on climate change and energy. This article compares the actions and positions of the two candidates on environmental, energy, and resources issues. It begins by looking at their voting records, presents their endorsements and campaign contributions, and then discusses their positions as shown in their campaign position papers, speeches, responses to voter questionnaires, and similar sources. The intent here is to provide an objective comparison without evaluating the merits of the stances taken.
Michael B. Gerrard


Environmental Policy and Politics: Trends in Public Debate
How much do environmental issues matter in politics? Said another way, how often and to what extent do environmental issues penetrate the general consciousness enough to affect elections in the United States on a national level?

If the focus is on the day-to-day work of an environmental practitioner or consultant, the answer to those questions probably is “not much.” Most environmental policy debates tend to be among specialists—environmental advocates, affected industries, and certain government agencies—and tend to be focused in a particular part of the country. The issues are too technical or the environmental consequences too subtle to hold the broader public’s attention. Sometimes, however, an environmental issue elevates to the level of a broader consciousness among the general electorate.
Steven Burns

Changing Administrations and Environmental Guidance Documents
As we march to the polls every four years, the public presumably expects that the winning ticket will influence the development and implementation of policy. Had Al Gore been sworn in as president in January 2001, the American public arguably could have anticipated that he might have addressed global climate change more aggressively than his rival, George W. Bush. It is not surprising, therefore, that executive agencies during the past thirty-five years generally have reflected the apparent philosophy of the then-sitting president. After all, this is in part why people vote for a president, with an expectation that administration policies and priorities will change and reflect the views of their candidate. With each new election cycle, the ability of the executive branch to influence policy on the myriad of issues—such as climate change—will surface. And with each new election cycle, the chief executive will be confronted with limits on his or her ability to change policy. Some of those limits may, indeed, be necessary to avoid what some might call pernicious efforts to change policy—those that occur with limited advance notice, public involvement, or even with meaningful agency participation.
Sam Kalen

A High-Wire Balancing Act: Federal Energy Transmission Corridors
On October 5, 2007, the Department of Energy (DOE) issued an order designating two National Interest Electric Transmission Corridors (NIETCs) in the mid-Atlantic and southwestern regions of the United States. A very significant result of the orders is that, if certain conditions are met, the federal government may exercise eminent domain power for the construction and siting of electric transmission lines in these NIETCs.
Aaron S. Lax

The Rebirth of the Political Question Doctrine
Recently, constitutional scholars have all but declared the “political question doctrine,” a principle that allows the judiciary to inject a measure of prudence in deciding whether to exercise its power, to be a dead letter. In the wake of the tumultuous U.S. Supreme Court decision of Bush v. Gore, 531 U.S. 98 (2000), Mark Tushnet wrote about the “disappearance” of the political question doctrine, remarking that “[w]hat is notable about Bush v. Gore . . .is that no one said anything at all about justiciability questions [like] lack of standing or because it raised a political question.”
Maria V. Gillen

The New Federalism: States Take a Leading Role in Clean Air
The Clean Air Act Amendments of 1970 (1970 Amendments) adopted the first major federal programs to curtail air pollution. While the “Founding Fathers” who wrote the 1970 law had concluded that protection of public health and the environment required muscular federal intervention, they were extraordinarily conscious of the need to assure that others had the power to do the job if the federal government faltered.
Richard E. Ayers and Jessica L. Olson

Fencing Off the Eagle and the Condor, Border Politics, and Indigenous Peoples
Fencing as a way of asserting territorial rights is a practice that has been carried over from Europe. In North America prior to European settlements, there was not a fence to be found. With the formation of the United States, Canada, and Mexico, the free-flowing trade and travel north and south from the Yukon to the Amazon has been severely curtailed. The plentiful resources that have been nurtured and cultivated for centuries by past generations of indigenous peoples are now the building blocks for the superpower status of the United States.
Angelique EagleWoman