environmental republicans

Peter Dykstra: Jurassic politics

Are office-holding Republicans with strong environmental credentials an extinct species?

Let’s imagine, for just a second, we’re talking environmental politics, but in a Jurassic Park framework.


First, take some genetic material from an extinct species: office-holding Republicans with strong environmental credentials. Then rebuild the species over time, using the green DNA of Republicans past, like former Congressmen Sherwood Boehlert or Bob Inglis.

The Green Hornet

Boehlert was a 12-term Congressman from upstate New York. Dubbed “The Green Hornet,” he led the effort to blunt his fellow Republicans’ anti-regulatory efforts after the Contract With America captured Congress in the 1994 elections.

When the Clean Air Act was strengthened in 1990-91, he led the charge. The new Clean Air provisions were key to turning the tide on acid rain.

Boehlert also teamed with then-Senator Joe Biden in bi-partisan efforts to save Amtrak. He retired from Congress in 2007 but remained a strong pro-environment voice in retirement. Sherwood Boehlert died last September.

Bob Inglis

Inglis represented South Carolina's 4th congressional district from 1993 to 1999 and again from 2005 to 2011. He was a latecomer to environmental issues, racking up a lackluster 26% lifetime score with the League of Conservation Voters (LCV).

He later embraced climate change as an issue that his constituents in coastal “Low Country” South Carolina might respond to. No such luck. In his seventh campaign, Inglis faced a host of GOP challengers. The eventual winner was a local prosecutor, Trey Gowdy. Gowdy’s main distinction in a brief congressional career was his dogged pursuit of Hillary Clinton in the Benghazi affair.

The two GOP green giants

Richard Nixon

Richard Nixon fathered the Environmental Protection Agency and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and signed into law the Endangered Species Act and Clean Air Act. (Credit: manhhai/flickr)

Much is often made of the two Presidents – both Republicans – whose environmental accomplishments outpace all others from both parties. Teddy Roosevelt championed National Parks, the Forest Service, and the Fish and Wildlife Service.

And that Ol’ Treehugger Richard Nixon fathered the Environmental Protection Agency and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and signed into law the Endangered Species Act and Clean Air Act, among others.

But it took another Republican giant, Ronald Reagan, to put today’s conundrum into perspective. In his 1984 State of the Union: “Preservation of our environment is not a liberal or conservative challenge, it's common sense.”

Well, okay, Reagan’s scandal-plagued EPA and Interior Dept. bosses might suggest that common sense had not yet arrived. But it would be a sad improvement if Mr. Reagan’s GOP heirs couldn’t even get back to false platitudes about the environment.

"Not some distant crisis" 

I asked Tiernan Sittenfeld, LCV’s Senior VP of Government Affairs, about the prospects for Republicans waking up to smell the carbon.

“They’re not there. Hope springs eternal,” she responded. “This is not some distant crisis.”

Is there a Great Green Hope on the horizon?

Miami-area Congressman Carlos Curbelo briefly emerged as co-Chair of the Congressional Climate Caucus. Then he lost his re-election bid in 2018.

And, of course, it’s a stretch to assume the Democrats speak with one voice on climate. West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin—perhaps you’ve heard of him—is still poised to defend his home-state coal industry.

Peter Dykstra is our weekend editor and columnist and can be reached at pdykstra@ehn.org or @pdykstra.

His views do not necessarily represent those of Environmental Health News, The Daily Climate, or publisher Environmental Health Sciences.

Banner photo: Former U.S. Congressman Bob Inglis (R-SC) in 2017. (Credit: MIT)

republican climate change denial
Speaker of the House Mike Johnson. (Credit: Gage Skidmore)

Opinion: House Speaker Mike Johnson’s climate change playbook — deny the science, take the funding

The two-faced charade of climate denial while diving into the pot of federal renewable incentives and tax breaks.

It took no time for Mike Johnson to establish a hefty carbon footprint as new Speaker of the House.

Keep reading...Show less
Senator Whitehouse & climate change

Senator Whitehouse puts climate change on budget committee’s agenda

For more than a decade, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse gave daily warnings about the mounting threat of climate change. Now he has a powerful new perch.
Lake Winnipesaukee
Image by John French from Pixabay

Climate change impacting Lake Winnipesaukee ice-out and ice-in dates

Climate change is impacting weather patterns all around us, including milestones at Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire's largest body of water.

global warming
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

2023 is about to smash the record for the hottest year

For the sixth month in a row, Earth set a new monthly record for heat, and also added the hottest autumn to the litany of record-breaking heat this year, the European climate agency calculated.

Seeking higher ground: Western resorts take skiers where the snow is

New terrain development at ski resorts, primarily in Colorado, aims to chase and preserve snow, an invaluable commodity.
electric vehicle charger
Photo by Robert Linder on Unsplash

Biden’s EV tax credit rules are finally here

A year after the federal government promised new rules governing how electric vehicles can qualify for tax credits, the Treasury Department’s official guidance is finally here.

cop28
Big Stock Photo

Who is pledging climate finance at COP28, and how much?

At this year's U.N. climate summit, countries, development institutions and businesses are pledging more money for everything from the energy transition to health care initiatives, technology investments, disaster relief and more.

Least-studied areas of Brazilian Amazon at high risk from climate change

In the Brazilian Amazon, between 15 and 18% of the areas most overlooked by research are at high risk of severe climate and land-use changes by 2050, according to a new study.

From our Newsroom
childrens health climate change

Delays in joining the RGGI regional climate program means excess ER visits and child illness in Pennsylvania

Up to 128 premature deaths from air pollution could have been prevented if the state had entered the program in 2022 as planned.

environmental justice

LISTEN: Carlos Gould on wildfire smoke and our health

“Information matters a lot — trying to explain not just that there’s a problem, but how to do something about it.”

fracking PFAS

“Forever chemicals” in Pennsylvania fracking wells could impact health of surrounding communities: Report

More than 5,000 wells in the state were injected with 160 million pounds of undisclosed, “trade-secret” chemicals, which potentially include PFAS.

800,000 tons of radioactive waste from Pennsylvania’s oil and gas industry has gone “missing”

800,000 tons of radioactive waste from Pennsylvania’s oil and gas industry has gone “missing”

Poor recordkeeping on hazardous waste disposal points to potential for bigger problems, according to a new study.

drought climate farming

Opinion: Climate change and soil loss — the new Dust Bowl?

How we can save our soil, stabilize the climate, and prevent a new Dust Bowl.

Stay informed: sign up for The Daily Climate newsletter
Top news on climate impacts, solutions, politics, drivers. Delivered to your inbox week days.