Gore's responses - Ballot 2000



OUR QUESTIONS

Global warming
Scientific research is increasingly documenting that greenhouse gases are contributing to global warming. What efforts do you think should be made in the United States to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases being generated? Are you in favor of the United States ratifying the Kyoto Protocol -- negotiated in 1997 as an amendment to the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change?

Alternative energy sources
What efforts would your administration make to reduce the United States' dependence on fossil fuels and promote the use of alternative energy sources such as solar panels and wind turbines? What is your position concerning the government's proper role in developing lower emission vehicles and alternative fuels for automobiles?

MTBE contamination of drinking water supplies
In 1979, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reasoned that replacing lead in gasoline with the fuel oxygenate methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) would result in cleaner vehicle emissions. However, EPA officials failed to consider that in the process, MTBE would contaminate drinking water supplies, such as lakes, underground aquifers and urban wells, around the United States. What actions will your administration take to handle this mounting threat to our nation's drinking water supplies? Do you think the use of MTBE should be phased out, and, if so, what type of fuel additive should be substituted in its place?

Clean water
Our largest remaining source of surface water pollution is stormwater runoff from farm fields, animal feeding operations and city streets. As president, what type of legislation would you support and promote to address this problem?

Brownfields
The Clinton administration has been giving high priority to the redevelopment of brownfields -- idled or underutilized industrial or commercial facilities stigmatized by real or perceived environmental contamination. The U.S. General Accounting Office recently estimated that approximately 450,000 exist throughout our nation. What efforts does your administration intend to take to clean up and revitalize U.S. brownfields in order to put these blighted sites back into productive use?

EPA - 2001 Budget
How much should EPA receive in funding for fiscal year 2001, including EPA's enforcement budget? Please list a specific amount, specify, if any, funds dedicated to particular functions within EPA, and give your reason(s) for advocating that specific funding level.

Appointment of EPA administrator
What qualifications do you think are important for an EPA Administrator to have in order to lead the agency effectively and protect the nation's environment? Please list the names of any potential appointees to this position that you are considering at this time. What actions do you think the next EPA Administrator should take to improve environmental protection, while offering greater flexibility and cost-savings to U.S. industry?

Public lands
This nation's 630 million acres of public land consists of parks, wildlife refuges, national forests and lands managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. What is your policy concerning the future management of U.S. public lands? What is your policy concerning the government's role in relation to the nation's remaining unprotected wildlands?



THE RESPONSES

Question 1.
I have carefully studied and addressed this issue for much of my public life, and I have concluded that the broad and growing scientific consensus indicates that global temperatures are rising and that human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels are at least partly to blame. Studies have shown that the 20th Century has been the warmest century in the past 1,000 years, the 1990s have been the warmest decade in the period, and 1998 was the single warmest year on record. The world's leading climate scientists predict an eventual increase in global temperatures of 2 to 6.5 degrees F. The range of likely effects that this kind of warming would cause include more extreme weather events, expanded geographic ranges for diseases like malaria and dengue fever, sea level rises, and damage to ecosystems that cannot adapt quickly enough. This issue is important because climate change threatens catastrophic changes in weather and sea level that imperil not just the environment, but also the safety of our communities, the reliability of our agricultural production, and other fundamental pillars of our economic future.

As Vice President, I personally participated in successfully negotiating the first international agreement to set binding commitments to reductions in greenhouse gas emissions: the Kyoto Protocol. One of the Protocol's key features is its system of market-based mechanisms that will help the world reduce greenhouse gas emissions both quickly and cost-effectively. We must make sure that the rules for these mechanisms get us the most environmental cleanup possible for each available dollar invested. We also need to ensure greater participation on the part of key developing countries in the fight against global warming.

Once these key features of the Protocol are ready to be put into place, I believe that support for this approach will combine with a growing understanding of the scientific information to forge a consensus for action on this issue. On this basis, as President I will work with the Congress to ensure the earliest possible ratification and most sensible implementation of the Protocol.

I also have fought for programs and targeted incentives to that will promote the energy-efficient technologies that will enable us to reduce greenhouse gases domestically while continuing our economic expansion.

Question 2.
I support a balanced energy policy that reduces environmental impacts while creating jobs and energy independence. I believe that maintaining tax incentives for the production of U.S. coal, oil, and natural gas can help ensure that domestic markets for these products will be supplied from domestic sources. However, such incentives should be regularly reviewed to ensure that they are still necessary and are working properly, and as President I will make sure such reviews take place.

At the same time, I believe that the U.S. should pursue tax policies, such as those in the Climate Change Technology Initiative, that will reduce the need to consume as much energy as it currently does from these sources by promoting more energy efficient vehicles and other alternative energy products.

Finally, I believe that significant improvement in the on-the-road fuel efficiency of the light duty vehicle fleet is critical to addressing climate change, and I will vigorously pursue that goal as President. The American consumer deserves the most efficient vehicle that technology can provide. Significantly improving fuel economy in all sizes of vehicles is possible, in part due to the research done by the Administration's Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles. With respect to specific Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards for the year 2010, I believe it is premature to set a specific standard until the rulemaking process required by law has taken place. That way we will have full information on what is technologically feasible, necessary from an environment standpoint, and protective of consumers.

Question 3.
The Clean Air Act of 1990 mandated cleaner gasoline called "reformulated gasoline." Part of that law established a requirement that reformulated gasoline contain oxygenates-fuel additives such as MTBE that allow gasoline to burn cleaner. The Administration was the first to respond to growing evidence that MTBE was contaminating some water supplies. In 1998, our Administration appointed a Blue Ribbon Panel of leading experts to scientifically investigate these concerns. As a result of the Panel's findings that MTBE poses risks to water supplies, we were the first to call on Congress to ban MTBE.

It is clear to me that Congress must act to reduce the threats posed by MTBE as quickly as possible, while at the same time preserving the gains we have made in achieving cleaner air. I believe they can do that by continuing to support the use of other additives, like ethanol, which allow gasoline to burn cleaner without jeopardizing our water supplies. My goal is to protect public health and the environment by ensuring that Americans have both cleaner air and cleaner water - and never one at the expense of the other.

Question 4.
We need to strengthen the Clean Water Act and significantly increase our investments in clean water if we are to fully reach the goal Congress set a generation ago: to achieve fishable and swimmable waters nationwide.

Throughout my career, as a Congressman and as a Senator, I voted for clean water legislation. I supported the continuing funding of the program and voted against attempts to cut funding for the Clean Water program. In the Senate, I voted in favor of expanding research of clean water programs and to apply the most current technologies to cleaning up contaminated water systems As Vice President, I initiated a Clean Water Action Plan that put in place new funding and essential regulatory elements to address the problem of polluted runoff. The new funding has included more than $4.6 billion in new funding over five years across a range of agencies and a set-aside of new grant monies to fund nonpoint-source pollution control. This funding includes expanded support for conservation programs and new funding for farmers and ranchers to control polluted runoff, The regulatory steps include the first strategy to bring large "factory farm" livestock operations into the regulatory system and an overhaul of the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) regulations requiring that states address polluted runoff that impairs water quality. These TMDL requirements, in particular, were too long neglected by prior Administrations. I insisted that we update the rules and set a schedule for compliance to address the more than 20,000 water bodies that remain impaired.

While the Action Plan put in place new funding, new standards, and a more comprehensive, watershed approach to improving water quality, these administrative steps ultimately must be reinforced with a strengthened Clean Water Act. The Clean Water Act must be strengthened with enforceable controls to provide a backstop where states fail to meet TMDL requirements. While we have strengthened regulatory protection of wetlands, we must eliminate a loophole in the law that now threatens the loss of tens of thousands of acres of wetlands through ditching and draining. We must restore the rights of citizens' groups to enforce Clean Water Act standards and requirements. Our increases to Clean Water funding, while significant, have been outpaced by the infrastructure and other pollution control needs of state and local governments and rural communities. The authorization levels in the law must reflect the magnitude of current clean water funding needs. This balanced approach recognizes that regulatory requirements, while important, will not be enough to meet the goals established for restoring and maintaining water quality for all of our communities.

We also must stand firm against those attempts, seen in every one of the last three Republican Congresses, to weaken the Clean Water Act. The "Dirty Water Bill" in the 104th Congress was the most notorious, but by no means the last, of these attempts. Most recently, an appropriations rider in the 106th Congress has threatened our efforts to strengthen wetlands and flood protection. I will continue to stand firm against, and as President, where necessary; I would veto these attacks on clean water protection.

Question 5.
While in the Congress, I was proud to be among the first to join Representative John Lewis in putting forward legislation that highlighted the need for Federal attention to this problem. As Vice President, I have strongly supported President Clinton's Executive Order on environmental justice, Executive Order 12898 (Feb, 1, 1994), and I have promoted efforts by our agencies to meet the goals of the Executive Order in a variety of contexts. First, we need to make sure those Federal decisions, standards, and programs take into account the multiple and cumulative exposures to pollution that too often are present in low-income and minority communities. EPA's new soot and smog regulations, for example, recognized the disproportionate impacts that poor air quality has on low-income and minority communities. Our asthma initiative recognizes that asthma is becoming a national epidemic, and that asthma rates for black and Hispanic communities are often double and triple the national average. We have had an aggressive program to abate lead hazards in housing, which disproportionately affect low-income and minority communities.

Second, we must give low-income and minority communities a voice in the policy decisions that affect them, so that the health and environmental needs of these communities are given their rightful priority when funding, enforcement, and permitting decisions are made. As a result of our initiatives, environmental justice must be considered in assessing the environmental impacts of proposed agency actions. Recently, the Administration convened community-level environmental justice meetings in New York and Los Angeles to provide low-income and minority communities a seat at the table with the federal, state, and local agencies responsible for ensuring environmental and public health protection in their communities. We are hoping that these meeting and will help us to define new models for promoting environmental justice at the community level.

Third, where permitting programs are delegated to or affected by decisions by state and local governments, we must work with the states and provide appropriate incentives and support to ensure that their programs address environmental justice concerns. We also must recognize that historical development and residential patterns often will require targeted action and investments to address exposure levels and patterns that cannot be addressed on a permit-by-permit basis. Our Lands Legacy proposal, for example, dramatically expands the funding available for urban parks. Our Better America Bonds proposal provides a new tax credit that would expand the funding available not only for parks but also for brownfields cleanup, which we know to be a significant need in low-income and minority communities.

Finally, we must recognize and act on the principle that achieving environmental justice is inextricably linked to economic development in low-income and minority communities. A neighborhood must be safe, clean and healthful to attract the investment that brings with it jobs and economic opportunity. Economic growth brings with it the resources needed to create livable communities.

Question 6 and 7.
As president, I will continue to work to protect the environment in ways that also create jobs and lead to economic growth. I will encourage cooperation between business and government to increase fuel-efficiency, cut greenhouse gas emissions, and encourage environmentally sound tourism and recreation in ways that work for business and workers and protect jobs. And I will create jobs directly through environmental protection; for example, cleaning up abandoned, polluted land in the inner cities to allow new businesses and development to come into those areas and create jobs. These values will be reflected in my appointment of an Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Question 8.
We must increase the diversity of lands held in trust for future generations, ensuring that wilderness areas and other national treasures receive appropriate designation and protection, strengthening partnerships with state and local governments in oversight of public lands, and demonstrating that the lands now under public ownership are being managed to the highest standards of natural resource stewardship.

This vision requires a range of steps to continue improving our management of public lands to protect environmental and natural resource values. We must be prepared to expand designation of threatened wilderness areas, while recognizing the merits of acquisitions in urbanizing areas with declining habitat. As sprawling Federal facilities close or consolidate, the need to preserve habitat and public open space must be given priority in considering future uses of these properties. Lands and waters of ecological, historical, or recreational significance need strengthened protection and comprehensive management planning that takes into account the needs of endangered species, water quality, and multiple uses. As we add to the lands that are appropriate for public management because of their ecological values, we must consider returning other Federally owned lands to local communities and to private ownership.

We also must restore areas that have been degraded by decades of neglect, poor management, and poor stewardship that have been reversed only recently. These practices, dating in many cases to the nineteenth century, have left a legacy of acid mine drainage, overgrazed land, and other damage to natural resources as we enter the twenty-first century. The future for surrounding communities depends on a continued effort to address this terrible legacy.

For too long, those administering this public trust failed to balance the demands of mining, oil and gas production, timber harvesting and other industries against the public interest in preserving our natural heritage and natural resource base. This is another unfortunate legacy we must continue to address. This Administration has reversed decades of abuse of our public lands, and has begun a new era of stewardship at the Forest Service and other federal land management agencies. We cannot afford to return to the days when these agencies were captive of special interests.

This vision can be achieved while honoring the historical connection that communities in the West have had with the federal lands, strengthening our partnerships with the communities in the West, and across the nation whose future prosperity will depend directly on our improved stewardship of these federal lands.



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Click here to view Ballot 2000 introduction.

This article appeared in Environmental Protection, Volume 11, Number 9, October 2000, Page 26.

This article originally appeared in the 10/01/2000 issue of Environmental Protection.

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