Barack Obama on Environment

Junior Senator (IL); President-Elect

Government should invest in clean energy & green jobs

Q: What would you do for the environment?

OBAMA: It is critical that we understand this is not just a challenge, it’s an opportunity, because if we create a new energy economy, we can create five million new jobs, easily. It can be an engine that drives us into the future the same way the computer was the engine for economic growth over the last couple of decades. We can do it, but we’re going to have to make an investment. The same way the computer was originally invented by a bunch of government scientists who were trying to figure out, for defense purposes, how to communicate, we’ve got to understand that this is a national security issue, as well.

McCAIN: We can move forward, and clean up our climate, and develop green technologies, and alternative energies for battery-powered cars, so that we can clean up our environment and at the same time get our economy going by creating millions of jobs.

Source: 2008 second presidential debate against John McCain Oct 7, 2008

Support reforestation as carbon sequestration issue

Obama's cap and trade system will require all pollution credits to be auctioned. A 100% auction ensures that all polluters pay for every ton of emission they release, rather than giving these emissions rights away to coal and oil companies.

Confront deforestation & promote carbon sequestration: Obama will develop domestic incentives that reward forest owners, farmers, & ranchers when they plant trees, restore grasslands, or undertake farming practices that capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Source: Obamanomics, by John R. Talbott, p.129 Jul 1, 2008

Willing to suspend ethanol subsidy to keep food prices down

Q: Ethanol usage in gas is criticized for raising food prices. Would you be willing to change ethanol subsidies so that people are not using corn for ethanol, & lowering food prices?

A: We’ve got rising food prices here in the US. In other countries we’re seeing riots because of the lack of food supplies. So this is something that we’re going to have to deal with. There are a number of factors that go into this. Changes in climate are contributing. There’s no doubt that biofuels may be contributing to it. My top priority is making sure that people are able to get enough to eat. And if it turns out that we’ve got to make changes in our ethanol policy to help people get something to eat, then that’s got to be the step we take. But I also believe that ethanol has been a important transitional tool for us to start dealing with our long-term energy crisis ultimately. Over time we’re going to shift to cellulosic ethanol, where we’re not using food stocks but we’re using wood chips & prairie grass.

Source: Meet the Press: 2008 “Meet the Candidates” series May 4, 2008

Genesis teaches stewardship of earth: sacrifice for future

Q: Could you give an example of how you relate your faith to science policy?

A: One of the things I draw from the Genesis story is the importance of us being good stewards of the land, of this incredible gift. And I think there have been times where we haven’t been [good stewards], and this is one of those times where we’ve got to take the warning seriously [about climate change]. And part of what my religious faith teaches me is to take an intergenerational view, to recognize that we are borrowing thi planet from our children and our grandchildren. And this is where religious faith and the science of global warming converge: We have to find resources in ourselves to make sacrifices so we don’t leave it to the next generation. We’ve got to be less wasteful, both as a society and in our own individual lives. I think religion can actually bolster our desire to make those sacrifices now. As president, I hope to rally the entire world around the importance of us being good stewards of the land.

Source: 2008 Democratic Compassion Forum at Messiah College Apr 13, 2008

1980s: Tested for asbestos at Chicago housing project

[As an organizer, Obama learned that] a Chicago Housing Authority was soliciting bids for removal of asbestos. Obama mobilized a busload of residents and descended on the offices of the executive director. With a few judiciously placed press invitations, the expedition yielded publicity and results. The authority agreed to test every unit. When asbestos was confirmed, stop-gap cleanup measures were instituted.

Over the long term, however, little happened to the asbestos. The CHA asked the department of Housing and Urban Development for over a billion dollars to repair housing projects across the city. The federal agency offered money to repair plumbing and roofing problems, or remove asbestos, but not both. The problem remained unresolved during Obama's time as an organizer.

The lesson was plain. Significant change was possible with government support, and impossible without it. Obama decided that law school would give him tools he needed to do more.

Source: Obama for Beginners, by Bob Neer, p. 21 Apr 1, 2008

Regulate animal feeding operations for pollution

Source: Campaign booklet, “Blueprint for Change”, p. 31-34 Feb 2, 2008

Will end the notion of Yucca Mountain nuclear storage

I will end the notion of Yucca Mountain because it has not been based on the sort of sound science that can assure people that they’re going to be safe. That was a mistake. You hate to see billions of dollars having already been spent, but I don’t want to spend additional billions of dollars and potentially create a situation that is not safe. I’ve been clear from the start that Yucca was a misconceived project. I want to get the best experts and make a determination on the best science available.
Source: 2008 Democratic debate in Las Vegas Jan 15, 2008

Promote green technologies and fuel efficiency standards

this to happen, we’ve got to be courageous enough to not just talk about it in front of the sierra club or organizations already sympathetic to us. When I announced my proposal to increase fuel efficiency standards on cars, I went to Detroit in front of the automakers and said they had to change their ways. I have to say the room was quiet and nobody clapped, but that’s okay. Part of what the next president has to do is not just tell the American people what they want to hear, but what they need to hear
Source: 2007 Des Moines Register Democratic Debate Dec 13, 2007

Organized inner-city recycling; fought environmental racism

One environmental magazine called Obama a “bona-fide, card-carrying, bleeding-heart greenie.” As a student at Columbia University, Obama worked for three months as an environmental activist to promote recycling in Harlem. As a community organizer, he fought against environmental racism by helping public housing residents demand to have their apartments tested for asbestos and repaired. He noted, “Environmentalism is not an upper-income issue, it’s not a black issue, it’s not a South or a North or an East or a West issue. It’s an issue that all of us have a stake in.“

Obama introduced a bill requiring more pollution controls at coal plants to block Bush from rolling back the Clean Air Act in Illinois. He cosponsored a bill to require that 10% of electricity in the state come from renewable sources by 2012, and supported measures to increase energy efficiency codes. Obama sought tougher standards for diesel engines and proposed protecting wetland and stopping toxic dumping.

Source: The Improbable Quest, by John K. Wilson, p.157-158 Oct 30, 2007

Reduce mercury and lead to protect community health

Build Healthy Communities:

Obama has been a leader in eliminating lead poisoning from our communities. He has introduced multiple pieces of legislation to reduce mercury and lead poisoning and is committed to identifying and addressing environmental health problems that affect too many of our communities.
Source: Campaign website, BarackObama.com, “Resource Flyers” Aug 26, 2007

Protect the Great Lakes & our National Parks and Forests

Preserve the Great Lakes:

Obama has been a strong supporter of the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration and co-sponsored the Great Lakes Environmental Restoration Act.

Protect National Parks and Forests:

Obama supports a true preservation policy for our nation’s parks and forests. Obama fought efforts to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and voted to prohibit the use of funds to construct new roads in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest.

Source: Campaign website, BarackObama.com, “Resource Flyers” Aug 26, 2007

1985: Organized asbestos removal in Chicago housing project

A recurring passage in many of Obama’s speeches is his mission of “giving voice to the voiceless and power to the powerless,” [based on the work of Saul Alinsky]. A main tenet of the Alinsky organizing philosophy was attention to listening--to pull together the masses for a common cause, the organizer must hear and understand the limitations, the fears and the experiences of the people being assembled. Working out of a small office in a church, Obama was assigned to conduct 20 to 30 interviews each week.

Obama was known for his detailed and calculated planning, a trait he would carry into politics. The first major project for Obama was assisting the 2,000 residents of a housing project amid a huge garbage dump, a noxious-smelling sewage plant, and the heavily polluted Calumet River.

Of Obama’s pursuits, a campaign to remove asbestos drew the most public attention. That confrontation prompted the housing authority to hire workers to seal off the asbestos.

Source: From Promise to Power, by David Mendell, p. 70-71 Aug 14, 2007

Passed lead abatement & 24 other laws in IL Senate

In his first two years in the Illinois Senate, Obama introduced or was chief cosponsor of 56 bills, with 14 of them becoming law--not bad rookie & sophomore seasons. Some Obama-led legislation that became law included measures that compensated crime victims for certain property losses, prevented early probation for gun-running felons, streamlined administrative processes when municipalities adjudicated ordinances and increased penalties for offenders who used date-rape drugs on victims.

In his third year, 1999, Obama was even more successful. He cosponsored almost 60 bills and 11 became law. They included measures that established a state-funded screening program for prostate cancer (a disease that disproportionately afflicts blacks), strengthened hospital testing and reporting of sexual assaults, increased funds for after-school programming, increased investigation of nursing home abuses and hiked funding for lead abatement programs (another large issue in the black community).

Source: From Promise to Power, by David Mendell, p.126-127 Aug 14, 2007

Give Katrina contracts to locals, not to Halliburton

Q: Would you support a federal law guaranteeing the right to return to New Orleans and other Gulf regions devastated by Hurricane Katrina?

KUCINICH: Absolutely. The aftermath underscores everything that’s wrong in this country about race.


DODD: I would as well. New Orleans and Katrina have become a symbol of everything that went wrong with this administration’s failure to respond to a people in need.

CLINTON: I have proposed a 10-point Gulf Coast Recovery Agenda, because even if we were to give people a right, there is nothing to return to.

BIDEN: It’s an American problem. We should guarantee the reconstruction.

RICHARDSON: Yes, I would support that. I would also support the Katrina Recovery Act.

EDWARDS: This is an issue I care about personally and deeply.

OBAMA: Halliburton or Bechtel getting the contracts to rebuild instead of giving the people in New Orleans the opportunity to rebuild and get jobs and training is a further compounding of the outrage.

Source: 2007 Democratic Primary Debate at Howard University Jun 28, 2007

Health Care for Hybrids proposal for fuel efficiency

Here’s the deal we can make with auto companies. It’s a piece of legislation I introduced called Health Care for Hybrids, and it would allow the federal government to pick up part of the tab for the auto companies retiree health care costs. In exchange, the auto companies would then use some of that savings to build and invest more fuel efficient cars.
Source: In His Own Words, edited by Lisa Rogak, p. 39 Mar 27, 2007

Scored 60% on Humane Society Scorecard on animal protection

Source: Humane Society 109th Congress Scorecard, www.fund.org Jan 31, 2007

Three months working on minority students recycling

I spent three months working for a Ralph Nader offshoot up in Harlem, trying to convince the minority students at City College about the importance of recycling. Then a week passing out flyers for an assemblyman’s race in Brooklyn - the candidate lost and I never did get paid.
Source: Dreams from My Father, by Barack Obama, p.129 Aug 1, 1996

Voted YES on including oil & gas smokestacks in mercury regulations.

A joint resolution disapproving the rule submitted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on March 15, 2005, relating to the removal of coal- and oil-fired electric generating units from the list of major sources of hazardous air pollutants under the Clean Air Act. The EPA's Clean Air Mercury Rule:
Reference: EPA's Clean Air Mercury Rule; Bill S J Res 20 ; vote number 2005-225 on Sep 13, 2005

Tax credit to remove lead-based housepaint.

Obama co-sponsored giving tax credit to remove lead-based housepaint

OFFICIAL CONGRESSIONAL SUMMARY: Allows a tax credit for 50% of the costs of reducing lead hazards in U.S. homes built before 1960 in which certain low-income children less than six years of age and women of child-bearing age reside. Allows a maximum credit of $3,000 for lead abatement costs and $1,000 for the cost of interim lead control measures.


    Congress finds that:
  1. Of the 98 million housing units in the United States, 38 million have lead-based paint.
  2. Of the 38 million housing units with lead-based paint, 25 million pose a hazard due to conditions such as peeling paint and settled dust on floors and windowsills that contain lead at levels above Federal safety standards.
  3. Lead poisoning remains a serious, entirely preventable threat to a child's intelligence, behavior, and learning.
  4. The Administration has established a national goal of ending childhood lead poisoning by 2010.
  5. Current Federal lead abatement programs only have resources sufficient to make approximately 7,000 homes lead-safe each year.
  6. The replacement of old windows that contain lead based paint significantly reduces lead poisoning hazards in addition to producing significant energy savings.
  7. Childhood lead poisoning can be dramatically reduced by the abatement or complete removal of all lead-based paint.
There shall be allowed as a tax credit, an amount equal to 50% of the lead hazard reduction activity cost paid, up to $1,000 per year for certain activities and $3,000 per year for other activities.

LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Referred to Senate Committee on Finance; never came to a vote.

Source: Home Lead Safety Tax Credit Act (S.2053/H.R.4464) 05-S2053 on Nov 18, 2005

Establish commission to examine Katrina response.

Obama co-sponsored establishing commission to examine Katrina response

OFFICIAL CONGRESSIONAL SUMMARY: To establish a congressional commission to examine the Federal, State, and local response to the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf Region, especially in the states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and other areas impacted in the aftermath, and make immediate corrective measures to improve such responses in the future.


LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Rollcall vote #229; lost 44-54.

Source: Establishment of Katrina Commission (S.AMDT.1660 to HR.2862) 05-SP1660 on Sep 8, 2005

Sponsored health impact bill for environmental health.

Obama sponsored for health impact assessments for environmental health

OnTheIssues.org Explanation: A classic 1980s study demonstrated that poor neighborhoods are burdened with more environmental hazards than rich neighborhoods. The 1980s study established the field of "environmental justice"; this bill addresses environmental justice and health justice.

OFFICIAL CONGRESSIONAL SUMMARY: A bill to require health impact assessments and take other actions to improve health and the environmental quality of communities, and for other purposes.

SPONSOR'S INTRODUCTORY REMARKS: Sen. OBAMA: The Healthy Places Act of 2006 focuses on the built environment, which includes our homes, parks, and transportation systems. Like many other States, Illinois has already begun to take steps to improve the environment. City leaders in Chicago have recognized that many low-income families have no access to fresh foods and medicine because there are no grocery stores and pharmacies in their neighborhoods. Retail Chicago, an initiative of the city's Department of Planning and Development, is now using redevelopment funds to entice local developers to bring grocery stores and pharmacies into these neighborhoods.

The Healthy Places Act of 2006 would expand these and other efforts to improve the planning and design of communities that can promote healthier living. It establishes and supports health impact assessment programs; better addressing environmental health issues; and creating a grant program to address environmental health hazards, particularly those that contribute to health disparities. Finally, the Healthy Places Act provides additional support for research on the relationship between the built environment and the health status of residents.

LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Referred to Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions; never came to a vote.

Source: Healthy Places Act (S.2506/H.R.5088) 06-S2506 on Apr 4, 2006

Inter-state compact for Great Lakes water resources.

Obama co-sponsored inter-state compact for Great Lakes water resources

A joint resolution expressing the approval of Congress to an inter-state compact regarding water resources. In the Great Lakes--St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact the Congress finds that:

Source: Great Lakes Water Resources Compact (S.J.RES.45) 08-SJR45 on Jul 23, 2008

Strengthen prohibitions against animal fighting.

Obama co-sponsored strengthening prohibitions against animal fighting

Sen. CANTWELL. I reintroduce today the Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act of 2007. This legislation has won the unanimous approval of the Senate several times, but unfortunately has not yet reached the finish line.

There is no doubt, animal fighting is terribly cruel. Dogs and roosters are drugged to make them hyper-aggressive and forced to keep fighting even after suffering severe injuries such as punctured eyes and pierced lungs. It's all done for "entertainment" and illegal gambling. Some dogfighters steal pets to use as bait for training their dogs, while others allow trained fighting dogs to roam neighborhoods and endanger the public.

The Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act will strengthen current law by making the interstate transport of animals for the purpose of fighting a felony and increase the punishment to three years of jail time. This is necessary because the current misdemeanor penalty has proven ineffective--considered a "cost of doing business" by those in the animal fighting industry which continues unabated nationwide.

These enterprises depend on interstate commerce, as evidenced by the animal fighting magazines that advertise and promote them. Our bill also makes it a felony to move cockfighting implements in interstate or foreign commerce. These are razor-sharp knives known as "slashers" and ice pick-like gaffs designed exclusively for cockfights and attached to the birds' legs for fighting.

This is long overdue legislation. It's time to get this felony animal fighting language enacted. It's time for Congress to strengthen the federal law so that it can provide as a meaningful deterrent against animal fighting. Our legislation does not expand the federal government's reach into a new area, but simply aims to make current law more effective. It is explicitly limited to interstate and foreign commerce, so it protects states' rights in the two states where cockfighting is still allowed.

Source: Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act (S.261/H.R.137) 2007-S261 on Jan 4, 2007

Other candidates on Environment: Barack Obama on other issues:
IL Gubernatorial:
Pat Quinn
IL Senatorial:
Richard Durbin
Roland Burris

Newly elected in 2008 & seated in 2009:
AK:Begich (D)
CO:Udall (D)
ID:Risch (R)
MN:Franken (D)
NC:Hagan (D)
NE:Johanns (R)
NH:Shaheen (D)
NM:Udall (D)
OR:Merkley (D)
VA:Warner (D)

Newly appointed in 2009;
special election in 2010:

DE:Kaufman (D)
CO:Bennet (D)
IL:Burris (D)
NY:Gillibrand (D)

Announced retirement as of 2010:
DE:Kaufman (D)
FL:Martinez (R)
KS:Brownback (R)
MO:Bond (R)
OH:Voinovich (R)

Up for 6-year term in 2010:
(13 Democrats; 15 Republicans)
AK:Murkowski (R)
AL:Shelby (R)
AR:Lincoln (D)
AZ:McCain (R)
CA:Boxer (D)
CT:Dodd (D)
GA:Isakson (R)
HI:Inouye (D)
IA:Grassley (R)
ID:Crapo (R)
IN:Bayh (D)
KY:Bunning (R)
LA:Vitter (R)
MD:Mikulski (D)
NC:Burr (R)
ND:Dorgan (D)
NH:Gregg (R)
NV:Reid (D)
NY:Schumer (D)
OK:Coburn (R)
OR:Wyden (D)
PA:Specter (R)
SC:DeMint (R)
SD:Thune (R)
UT:Bennett (R)
VT:Leahy (D)
WA:Murray (D)
WI:Feingold (D)
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