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Joe Biden’s Contributions to Environmental Protection

By Sustainability Office on March 24, 2017
-Chloe Matonis ’18

As Colgate University prepares for former vice president Joe Biden to visit campus as part of the Global Leaders lecture series, the Sustainability Office would be remiss if we did not acknowledge his numerous contributions to environmental protection, sustainability, and advocacy for animal rights.

During his 34 years in Senate, Biden was primarily known as a chieftain of foreign policy. Behind the scenes, however, he was consistently a strong advocate for environmental protection, earning himself a respectable 84% lifetime voting score from the League of Conservation Voters. Now, he emphasizes the close connection between geopolitics and environmental stewardship. In a statement given before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in 2007, Biden said:

“I personally believe that the single most important step we can take to resume a leadership role in international climate change efforts would be to make real progress toward a domestic emissions-reduction regime. For too long we have abdicated the responsibility to reduce our own emissions, the largest single source of the problem we face today. We have the world’s largest economy, with the highest per-capita emissions. Rather than leading by example, we have retreated from international negotiations.”1

To solve what he sees as the defining challenge of our time, Biden has been pushing for more U.S. involvement in international climate negotiations, more-stringent fuel-economy regulations, and a higher usage of biofuels and other alternative energy sources.2

Courtesy of ontheissues.org, here is sample of the environmental positions Biden has taken:

  • The United States should guarantee Katrina reconstruction. Biden supported a federal law guaranteeing the right to rebuild Gulf regions devastated by Hurricane Katrina, stating that the devastated area is “a national problem.”
  • Take away the billions of subsidies to oil companies. Biden introduced legislation to decrease subsidies from large oil companies. The first step he proposed was lower the $6 billion that go to the oil companies. The second step he proposed was to use the Justice Department to investigate the issue of oil price gouging. Lastly, he advocated for significantly raising and mandating automobile mileage.
  • Voted YES on including oil & gas smokestacks in mercury regulations. This resolution limits smokestack emissions in a two-phase program founded on a market-based capping system. It caps mercury emissions to 38 tons by 2010. It also requires the second and final cap to begin in 2018 and stay fixed at 15 tons.
  • Voted YES on continuing desert protection in California. This ends the discussion, and therefore closes the vote, on terminating existing programs that protect California’s deserts.
  • Voted YES on reducing funds for road-building in National Forests. This was a vote on an amendment to cut the $47.4 million provided for Forest Service road construction by $10 million, and to eliminate the purchaser credit program.
  • Voted YES on requiring EPA risk assessments. This requires risk assessments of any new EPA regulations.
  • End commercial whaling and illegal trade of whale meat. Biden pushed for the International Whaling Commission to remain firmly against commercial whaling, opposed the lethal taking of whales for scientific purposes unless it is specifically authorized by the Scientific Committee of the Commission, and supported the permanent protection of whale populations through the establishment of whale sanctuaries.
  • Higher standards on the EPA for mercury cleanup. Biden proposed stricter regulations for power plants to clean up their mercury pollution and emissions. The regulations follow the requirements of the Clean Air Act to protect our nation from toxic mercury contamination.
  • Stronger prohibitions against animal fighting. Biden co-sponsored strengthening prohibitions against animal fighting. This includes protecting dogs and roosters from being drugged, forced to fight, and physically mutilated for entertainment.

We should embrace Joe Biden’s environmental ideals and make Colgate a sustainable campus that he is proud to visit. Follow @colgatesustainability on Instagram to see how you can get involved!


  1. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/08/24/joe-bidens-environmental_n_120914.html
  2. http://grist.org/article/biden/

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