The Candidates on Energy and the Environment: A Survey of Policy Proposals Georgetown Environmental Law Review

Screen Shot 2016-02-12 at 7.30.17 PMThe Candidates on Energy and the Environment: A Survey of Policy Proposals

By: Hume Ross, Staff Contributor

The prominence and branding of the presidential candidates’ energy and environmentally related policy proposals varies widely. Some place these issues at the forefront of their messaging, while others relegate them to obscure corners of their websites, or off of their websites entirely. Environmental proposals might be discussed under the heading “Climate Action” by one candidate, and under the heading “Regulatory Reform” by another. This post aims to obviate the need for the reader to personally plumb the circuitous depths of the candidates’ websites. Information from outside the formal policy proposals on the candidates’ sites is used where a policy is alluded to but not fleshed out. To make it onto the main stage for this post, a candidate must have achieved at least 10% support in either the New Hampshire primary or the Iowa caucuses. With that, please welcome Senator Bernie Sanders, Real Estate Mogul Donald Trump, Secretary Hillary Clinton, Governor John Kasich, Senator Ted Cruz, Senator Marco Rubio, and Governor Jeb Bush.[i]

 Proposed Energy Mix

Regardless of a candidate’s position on the existence or relative urgency of climate change, their position on the United States’ future energy mix is a helpful indicator of regulations they will likely pursue. Governor Kasich wants to increase “all” current energy sources, such that all U.S. energy can be supplied from North America.[ii] Senator Sanders vows to achieve 80% renewable energy by 2050, and specifically eliminates nuclear energy from his vision of our future energy mix.[iii] Senator Sanders is alone in prominently discussing a larger role for geothermal energy, stating that its costs are less than that of a modern natural gas plant.[iv] Secretary Clinton wants to set targets to generate enough renewable energy to power all homes in the U.S.[v] by 2025, with a waypoint to that goal being a 700% increase in solar by 2020.[vi] Clinton does not rule out nuclear, describing herself as “agnostic” on the matter, but asserts that more research is needed on security and containment before any expansion.[vii] Senator Cruz espouses an “all-of-the-above energy approach that embraces the bountiful resources in this land — from oil to natural gas to ethanol.”[viii] Senator Rubio also supports “all-of-the-above,” emphasizing that a deregulated market should determine the mix, without Washington “picking winners and losers.”[ix] Governor Bush espouses a similar strategy, noting that energy costs are driven up when “the dynamism of free markets” is suppressed.[x] Donald Trump optimistically cites a Department of Energy finding that there is enough natural gas in the Marcellus Shale to power the United States “for the next 110 years.” Even if the Department is off by a factor of two, and there are only 55 years’ worth of gas, Trump asserts that still “buys us more time to innovate and develop newer, more efficient, cleaner, and cheaper forms of energy.”[xi]

Keystone XL, the Clean Power Plan, and the Clean Water Rule

For the Keystone XL pipeline and the recently stayed[xii] Clean Power Plan, a candidate’s position can be reliably inferred from party affiliation. The Republican candidates universally would approve Keystone, either because it will have “no impact” on the environment (Trump)[xiii], because it will “increase access to oil from Canada” (Gov. Kasich)[xiv], because it will “empower the private sector” (Sen. Cruz)[xv], possibly increasing GDP by $3 Billion (Gov. Bush)[xvi], and because it is a “step towards energy independence” that “bolster[s] our national security” by reducing our need for oil from “tyrannical governments” (Sen. Rubio).[xvii] On the Democratic side, Senator Sanders is unequivocal in his opposition of Keystone, which is tied not to the specifics of the project but more broadly to his belief that it is “totally crazy” to support the production and transportation of some of the “dirtiest oil on the planet.”[xviii] Secretary Clinton also opposes Keystone, although allegations of prior support do exist.[xix]

Republican opposition to the Clean Power Plan[xx] (“CPP”) and the Clean Water Rule[xxi], sometimes called “Waters of the U.S.” rule (“WOTUS”), is apparently unanimous. Senator Rubio asserts that CPP is “illegal” and will “hurt the communities that depend on affordable energy for their livelihoods.”[xxii] Governor Kasich refers to CPP as “counterproductive” and “extreme.”[xxiii] Republican opposition to WOTUS focuses on its perceived overreach. Governor Bush faults it for “creating uncertainty among those families that rely on the land for their livelihood” and for putting “99 percent of Montana’s land under the EPA’s jurisdiction.”[xxiv] Incidentally, 99 percent is also the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau’s estimate of the percentage of that state that the EPA will gain jurisdiction over as a result of the rule[xxv], despite the marked differences in the states’ geographies.

On the Democratic side, Senator Sanders has characterized the CPP as an example of how we must “move boldly” to address a “planetary crisis.”[xxvi] Secretary Clinton vows to “fight efforts” to roll back CPP, calling it a “crucial tool in our national strategy to reduce carbon pollution…”.[xxvii] Both Sanders and Clinton are much quieter on WOTUS. Neither of their websites offers an official position, and neither have made any high profile public statements about the regulation. This may be because it has been stalled in court for much longer than the CPP[xxviii], or because the rule has less broad support from environmental groups and other Democratic politicians.[xxix]

Anti-Regulatory Proposals

Some standards of campaigning change over time. Reliable conservative haymaker punches like “liberal” and perhaps now even “socialist” don’t seem to land the way they used to. The issue of whether it is better to be a “jerk” or a “loser” has been submitted for public’s consideration this time around.[xxx] One tactic that maintains its appeal, however, is calling for a reduction in regulations. Even those who strongly support agencies’ regulatory goals agree there may be room to reduce duplicative, outdated, and confusing regulations.[xxxi] This election cycle has produced calls for regulatory and agency reform ranging from the workmanlike to the extreme.

Governor Kasich touts a program he created in Ohio called the “Common Sense Initiative” which is a clearinghouse for reviewing State regulations and minimizing unnecessary hardships for businesses.[xxxii] He also supports a one year freeze on new regulations to give job creators a “respite” while the regulatory system is “rebuilt.”[xxxiii] Governor Bush vows to prohibit the publication of proposed or final regulations until they are approved by an agency head nominated by him.[xxxiv] He will also institute more rigorous review of costs and benefits for each individual regulation.[xxxv] In a similar vein, Senator Rubio proposes a “National Regulatory Budget” which would allocate to each agency an allowable amount of “cost” the agency could impose on the economy. Any new regulations would have to be paid for with a reduction in existing regulations from that agency.[xxxvi] The relative impact of these proposals is, of course, nearly impossible to judge given that the “net cost” of a regulation is a function of numerous underlying economic and non-economic factors which the candidates do not attempt to quantify.

For any voter who really wants to rage against the regulatory machine, Senator Cruz is an alluring choice. Out of the gate, Cruz vows to institute a hiring freeze across all executive departments, allowing a single new hire only when three employees depart.[xxxvii] He will also eliminate five major governmental departments, including the Department of Energy.[xxxviii] Many smaller government entities and programs will also be extinguished, including the Appalachian Regional Commission, the Climate Resilience Evaluation and Awareness Tool, the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation, and, in a potential blow to domestic catfish farmers[xxxix], the USDA Catfish Inspection Program.[xl]

Final Thoughts from Each Candidate

Donald Trump asserts that, at least in some respects, the challenges facing the American worker are not solely the result of domestic overregulation, but rather result in part from a lack of regulation of foreign, specifically Chinese, corporations. China’s “woeful lack of reasonable environmental and labor standards” is an “unacceptable export subsidy.” Trump will challenge China to “join the 21st century” with respect to these “high standards” that US corporations have to meet.[xli]

Governor Kasich proposes keeping fracking regulations at the state level.[xlii] He also supports increased access to oil and gas on “non-sensitive” public lands as long as there are “proper” environmental protections.[xliii] The definition of “non-sensitive” and “proper” is not specified. Kasich also, along with several other Republican candidates, supports repealing the ban on crude oil exports.[xliv]

Substantially all of the energy and environmental proposals from Senator Cruz’s plan have been discussed above. If you were wondering what the other four major departments he would eliminate are though, they are the Internal Revenue Service, and the Departments of Education, Commerce, and Housing and Urban Development.[xlv]

Senator Sanders proposes $10 Billion to modernize grid infrastructure to allow for distributed generation and increased security against cyber-attack, as part of a larger $1 Trillion infrastructure plan, paid for by repatriating offshore corporate profits.[xlvi]

Secretary Clinton proposes a $25 Billion “Infrastructure Bank” to “support critical infrastructure improvements” including energy. This is also part of a larger, $275 Billion five-year plan, paid for through business tax reform.[xlvii]

Governor Bush would focus on streamlining the permitting processes at various agencies. Specifically, he would ensure that, absent “extraordinary circumstances” infrastructure permits would be granted within two years.[xlviii] He cites the fact that the EPA has held up a permit to raise the Bayonne Bridge on its existing foundations for five years as evidence of the unacceptable present state of the permit system.[xlix] Bush also proposes a tightening of standing rules to ensure that environmental litigation is not a tool of delay.[l]

Senator Rubio would reduce the federal gasoline tax by 80%[li] (approximately 15 cents per gallon for gas, 20 cents per gallon for diesel).[lii] He would fight to empower states and tribes to control energy development within their borders.[liii] He also emphasizes repeatedly that it is important to “dispel once and for all with this fiction that Barack Obama doesn’t know what he’s doing. He knows exactly what he’s doing. Barack Obama is undertaking a systematic effort to change this country, to make America more like the rest of the world.”[liv]


[i] PBS Newshour, Election Calendar, (last visited Feb. 12, 2016).

[ii] Kasich for America, Fact Sheet: A Strategy for Dismantling Washington & Reclaiming Our Power, Money and Influence, 2,

[iii] Bernie 2016, Combating Climate Change to Save the Planet, (last visited Feb. 12, 2016).

[iv] Id.

[v] Residential use accounted for approximately 22% of domestic energy consumption in 2008. See The National Academy of Sciences, Our Energy System, (last visited Feb. 12, 2016).

[vi] Hillary for America, Making America the world’s clean energy superpower and meeting the climate challenge, (last visited Feb. 12, 2016).

[vii] Council on Foreign Relations, Democratic Debate Transcript, CNN/YouTube, (last visited Feb. 12, 2016).

[viii] Cruz for President, Reigniting Promise for Millions of American Families, (last visited Feb. 12, 2016).

[ix] Marco Rubio for President, Powering the New American Century, 2,

[x] Jeb 2016, Inc., Energy Policy for Growth,, (last visited Feb. 12, 2016).

[xi] OntheIssues,, (last visited Feb. 12, 2016).

[xii] Jonathan Adler, Placing the Clean Power Plan in Context, WASH. POST: The Volokh Conspiracy (Feb. 10, 2016),

[xiii] Emily Atkin, Trump Says Keystone XL Pipeline Would Have ‘No Impact’ On The Environment, CLIMATE PROGRESS (Aug. 20 2015),

[xiv] Kasich for America, supra note 2, at 2.

[xv] Cruz for President, supra note 7.

[xvi] Jeb 2016, Inc., supra note 9.

[xvii] Marco Rubio, Keystone Pipeline Should Move Forward, FIGHTING FOR FLORIDA (Jan. 18 2012),

[xviii] H.A. Goodman, Bernie Sanders Is Against Keystone XL. Hillary Clinton Was ‘Inclined’ to Approve It. Why the Difference?, HUFFINGTON POST (July 20, 2015), .

[xix] Lauren Carroll, Clinton says her Keystone XL position isn’t a flip-flop, POLITIFACT (Oct. 14, 2015),

[xx] United States Environmental Protection Agency, Clean Power Plan, (last visited Feb. 12, 2016).

[xxi] United States Environmental Protection Agency, Clean Water Rule, (last visited Feb. 12, 2016).

[xxii] Marco Rubio for President, supra note 8, at 6.

[xxiii] Kasich for America, supra note 2, at 2.

[xxiv] Jeb 2016, Inc., Western Land and Resource Management, (last visited Feb. 12, 2016).

[xxv] On the Farm Radio, Analysis: New EPA water rule covers 99% of PA,!Analysis-New-EPA-water-rule-covers-99-of-PA/cb1r/55cf2c1d0cf2ce5f89abb0d3 (last visited Feb. 12, 2016).

[xxvi] League of Conservation Voters, In Their Own Words: 2016 Presidential Candidates on the Clean Power Plan, (updated Feb. 10, 2016).

[xxvii] The Briefing, Factsheets: Hillary Clinton’s Vision for Renewable Power, (last visited Feb. 12, 2016).

[xxviii] Emily Atkin, Why The EPA’s Clean Drinking Water Rule Is So Controversial, CLIMATE PROGRESS (Sep. 1 2015),

[xxix] Id.

[xxx] Ashley Killough, Jeb Bush: ‘Donald Trump is a jerk’, CNN (Dec. 22, 2015 8:13 AM),

[xxxi] Sam Batkins, It’s Past Time to Address Regulatory Duplication, Penn Program On Regulation REGBLOG (May 19, 2014),

[xxxii] Kasich for America, supra note 2, at 2.

[xxxiii] Id.

[xxxiv] Jeb 2016, Inc., Regulatory Reform: The Regulatory Crisis in Washington, (last visited Feb. 12, 2016).

[xxxv] Id.

[xxxvi] Marco Rubio for President, Marco’s Plan to Restore Sanity and Restraint to Regulation: A National Regulatory Budget, (last visited Feb. 12, 2016).

[xxxvii] Cruz for President, Five for Freedom Summary, (last visited Feb. 12, 2016).

[xxxviii] Id.

[xxxix] Dan Flynn, USDA Plans to Begin Catfish Inspections in March 2016, FOOD SAFETY NEWS (Nov. 26, 2015),

[xl] Id.

[xli] Donald J. Trump for President, Inc., Reforming The U.S.-China Trade Relationship to Make America Great Again, (last visited Feb. 12, 2016).

[xlii] Kasich for America, supra note 2, at 2.

[xliii] Id.

[xliv] Id.

[xlv] Cruz for President, supra note 34.

[xlvi] Bernie 2016, How Bernie pays for his proposals, (last visited Feb. 12, 2016).

[xlvii] Hillary for America, Infrastructure: Strong infrastructure is critical to a strong economy, (last visited Feb. 12, 2016).

[xlviii] Jeb 2016, Inc., supra note 31.

[xlix] Id.

[l] Id.

[li] Marco Rubio for President, Marco’s Plan for Transportation in the New American Century, (last visited Feb. 12, 2016).

[lii] U.S. Energy Information Administration, Frequently Asked Questions, (last visited Feb. 12, 2016).

[liii] Marco Rubio for President, Powering the New American Century, (last visited Feb. 12, 2016).

[liv] Team Fix, Transcript of the New Hampshire GOP debate, annotated, WASH. POST: The Fix (Feb. 2, 2016),

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