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What Democratic presidential candidates’ plans mean for Michigan environment

Democrats competing in Michigan’s March 10 presidential primary are touting environmental plans to fight climate change, clean up drinking water and replace aging infrastructure that could have major effects on Michigan and the Great Lakes. 

Many candidates are describing their proposals as a Green New Deal, referencing the massive 1930s initiative by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to end the Great Depression through a series of public work projects, financial reforms and regulations.

While Democrats vying to face Republican President Donald Trump share common goals to curb greenhouse gas emissions and boost renewable energy sources, their proposals to achieve those goals vary widely.

Here’s a look at the plans:

Joe Biden

Joe Biden 

The former vice president, calling the Green New Deal a “crucial framework” for meeting the nation’s climate challenges, is proposing a $1.7 trillion program to boost clean energy spending over a decade and eliminate greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Separately, Biden’s $1.3 trillion infrastructure plan proposes to double investments in clean drinking water systems and focus new spending on low-income communities struggling to replace lead pipes. He’s promised to pay for both by reversing recent tax cuts for corporations and ending subsidies for fossil fuel companies. 

Read Biden’s climate plan and Biden’s infrastructure plan

Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders

The Vermont senator says he’ll institute new drinking water standards if elected president, and his version of the Green New Deal is the most expensive and aggressive of all the Democratic candidates. He’s proposing $16.3 trillion in new spending to ensure 100 percent renewable energy by 2030, create clean energy jobs and end all fossil fuel use by 2050. He’s also sponsored legislation that would provide up to $34.85 billion to help repair aging water systems across the country. Sanders told the New York Times he thinks his plan would “pay for itself” over 15 years. Read Sanders’ climate plan


Tulsi Gabbard

The Hawaii congresswoman has proposed legislation that would end the use of fossil fuel energy sources by 2035 while extending unemployment for displaced workers in industries like coal and providing incentives to employers that rehire them. Gabbard wants to boost investments in renewable energy sources like wind, solar and geothermal, while banning fracking. Read Gabbard’s climate plan 

Editor's note: This article was updated March 5 to remove positions of candidates who have dropped out of the campaign since publication. Several candidates who have quit the race also will appear on Michigan's primary ballot.

Michigan Environment Watch

Michigan Environment Watch examines how public policy, industry, and other factors interact with the state’s trove of natural resources.

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