Background on Environment

Environment topics in the 2020 election cycle:

Environment topics in the 2016 election cycle:

Energy issues have so dominated the 2016 election that all other environmental issues have fallen aside. In fact, the term "environmental issues" in this election cycle has come to mean "energy issues." In this section, we stick to non-energy environmental issues -- see our Energy & Oil section for the energy-based issues.

Some hot topics in the 2016 election cycle:

Some older topics from previous election cycles:

  • Hurricane Katrina: Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans on August 29, 2005, and breached the levies surrounding the city. Much of New Orleans was flooded, resulting in over 700 deaths and thousands of permanently lost homes. At issue politically is who was responsible for ignoring the warnings about levy breaches. Democrats blame President George W. Bush, who infamously claimed about FEMA director Michael Brown, while visiting New Orleans, "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job." Republicans blame Louisiana's Democratic governor and New Orleans' Democratic mayor. Lessons learned focus on more preparedness; in later hurricanes, the federal and state governments have both been much more cautious, some say over-cautious.

  • Hurricane Sandy: Hurricane Sandy made landfall in New Jersey, just south of New York City, on October 29, 2012. Much of the NYC metropolitan area was flooded, resulting in about 150 deaths and about $100 billion in damages. President Obama declared a state of emergency prior to landfall, part of the cautiousness resulting from Hurricane Katrina. Questions persist about whether global warming caused the intensity of Hurricane Sandy, and hence will cause future hurricanes of similar intensity.

    Some hot topics persisting from the 2012 election cycle:

  • Yucca Mountain: A federally-owned mountain in Nevada which the federal government has proposed as a long-term repository for nuclear waste. Yucca Mountain was selected because, in theory, it is geologically stable enough to survive intact for the tens of thousands of years until the nuclear waste becomes harmless. The site was first proposed under President Reagan in 1985-1987; Congress approved it under President Bush in 2002; and then Congress canceled the program under President Obama in April 2011.

  • Big Dig: The "Big Dig" refers to Boston's Central Artery/Tunnel Project, conducted in large part while Mitt ROmney was governor of Massachusetts. The Big Dig converted an elevated highway, I-93, into a 3.5 mile tunnel through central Boston, and added a third tunnel under Boston Harbor to Logan Airport. The original cost of the project in 1998 was proposed at $3 billion; it grew into a $22 billion project by the latest 2012 estimate. In addition to several construction deaths, a motorist was killed when a section of ceiling collapsed in 2006, attributed to inappropriate glue to hold up the concrete ceiling. The project was also plagued by water leaks for several years, attributed to failure to meet contract specifications.

  • Conservation Easements: Refers to land deeds which restrict future usage of the parcel of land to protect habitat, ban hunting or logging, or otherwise meet conservation goals. Also known as "Land Trusts," they have been tremendously successful in preserving open space and wildlife habitat. To assure that open space and habitat will be there for future generations, Congress provided targeted income tax relief to small farmers and ranchers who wish to make a charitable contribution of a qualified conservation easement.

  • Green Jobs: "Green Jobs" refers to subsidizing environmentally-friendly industries, usually alternative energy.

    Every recent president, including Obama, has promised "green jobs" in their State of the Union speeches; but the only action so far has been to mention it again in the subsequent year's State of the Union message.

    "Solyndra" has become shorthand for "cronyism in the name of green jobs." Solyndra declared bankruptcy in Sept. 2011 after receiving a $527 million federal loan to support commercial-scale manufacturing for its solar photovoltaic panels. Romney visited the abandoned Solyndra factory in May 2012 to criticize Obama's policy.

      Federal Lands
      The federal government owns 27% of all US land (more than the combined area of Alaska, Texas, & California).
    1. BLM: The Bureau of Land Management owns 270 million acres of cattle grazing land.
    2. USFS: The US Forest Service owns 185 million acres of timber land.
    3. FWS: The Fish & Wildlife Service owns 90 million acres of waterways and surrounding lands.
    4. NPS: The National Park Service owns 75 million acres of national parks and national rivers.
    5. States: State and local governments own 200 million acres of land (another 9% of total US land area).
    Amendment V to the US Constitution
    ...nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.(1791)

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    Click here references and citations on Environment
  • The Guardian, "Brazil's Amazon rainforest suffers worst fires in a decade," 1 Oct 2020
  • Greenpeace, "Fires are raging in the Amazon—again," by Diego Gonzaga, 21 July 2020
  • Reuters, "Brazil's Bolsonaro calls surging Amazon fires a 'lie'," by Jake Spring & Maria Carolina Marcello, Aug 11, 2020
  • U.S. Energy Information Administration, "FAQ: How many nuclear power plants are in the United States, and where are they located?," Jun 9, 2020
  • Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, "Don't let nuclear accidents scare you away from nuclear power," by Bulat Aytbaev, Dmitry Grigoriev, Vladislav Lavrenchuk, & Noah Mayhew, August 31, 2020
  • EPA, "Clean Air Mercury Rule," downloaded Oct. 2020
  • Washington Post, "EPA overhauls mercury pollution rule, despite opposition from industry and activists alike," by Brady Dennis and Juliet Eilperin, April 16, 2020
  • MarketWatch, "EPA guts rule credited with cleaning up toxic air from coal and oil power plants," by Associated Press, April 16, 2020
  • Click On Detroit, "6 years later: Where things stand in the Flint water crisis," by Hank Winchester, April 24, 2020
  • ABC-12, "Flint water prosecutors committed to 'professional prosecution' of anyone responsible," by Ann Pierret, Apr. 21, 2020
  • EcoWatch, "Pollution Prosecutions Plummet to Lowest Level in Decades Under Trump," by Jordan Davidson, Oct. 14, 2020
  • Strawless Ocean, "For a Strawless Ocean," downloaded Oct. 2020
  •, "Why the World Is Hating on Plastic Straws Right Now," by Brenna Houck, Jul 12, 2018
  • National Geographic, "Great Pacific Garbage Patch," downloaded Oct. 2020
  •, "3 misconceptions about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch," by Emily Petsko, September 9, 2019
  • Investopedia, "Cash for Clunkers," by Julia Kagan, Jul 31, 2020
  • Amtrak, "Additional Funding Needed Soon to Avoid Additional Service and Employment Reductions," Oct 8, 2020
  • Statista, "Ridership - Amtrak 2013-2019," by E. Mazareanu, Nov 20, 2019
  • Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado, "What is a WOTUS?", downloaded Oct. 2020
  • Greenpeace, "Energy & industry lobbyists plot to undo water pollution protections," by Christine Ottery, 25.11.2015
  • Farm Bureau, "Clean Water Act, WOTUS," downloaded Oct. 2020
  •, "Why Trump wants to repeal an Obama-era clean water rule," by Brad Plumer and Umair Irfan, Dec 11, 2018
  • Other candidates on Environment: Background on other issues:
    2020 Presidential Democratic Primary Candidates:
    V.P.Joe Biden (D-DE)
    Mayor Mike Bloomberg (I-NYC)
    Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D-IN)
    Sen.Cory Booker (D-NJ)
    Secy.Julian Castro (D-TX)
    Rep.John Delaney (D-MD)
    Rep.Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI)
    Sen.Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)
    Gov.Deval Patrick (D-MA)
    Sen.Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
    CEO Tom Steyer (D-CA)
    Sen.Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)

    2020 GOP and Independent Candidates:
    CEO Don Blankenship (C-WV)
    Gov.Larry Hogan (R-MD)
    Gov.John Kasich (R-OH)
    V.P.Mike Pence (R-IN)
    Gov.Mark Sanford (R-SC)
    CEO Howard Schultz (I-WA)
    Pres.Donald Trump (R-NY)
    Gov.Jesse Ventura (I-MN)
    V.C.Arvin Vohra (L-MD)
    Rep.Joe Walsh (R-IL)
    Gov.Bill Weld (L-MA)

    2020 Withdrawn Democratic Candidates:
    State Rep.Stacey Abrams (D-GA)
    Sen.Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
    Sen.Kamala Harris (D-CA)
    Gov.John Hickenlooper (D-CO)
    Gov.Jay Inslee (D-WA)
    Mayor Wayne Messam (D-FL)
    Rep.Seth Moulton (D-MA)
    Rep.Beto O`Rourke (D-TX)
    Adm.Joe Sestak (D-PA)
    Rep.Eric Swalwell (D-CA)
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