What Democratic presidential candidates’ plans mean for Michigan environment

Democratic candidates 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. (Shutterstock image)

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

Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth Warren 

The Massachusetts senator’s plan to make good on her promise of a Green New Deal proposes over $10 trillion in new federal spending over a decade to achieve 100 percent clean energy by 2035, 100 percent clean vehicles by 2030 and 100 percent clean buildings by 2028. Separately, her Blue New Deal plan calls for full funding of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and proposes to expand “marine protected areas” in the seas, ocean and Great Lakes.
Read Warren’s climate plan and Warren’s water plan

Pete Buttigieg

Pete Buttigieg

The former South Bend, Indiana, mayor’s plan to curb climate change is less expensive than many of his peers at roughly $2 trillion, but it still sets ambitious goals to double clean energy by 2025 and end emissions by 2050.  Among his new ideas is the creation of a CarbonStar program that, like EnergyStar did for electricity consumption, would provide consumers with data about a product’s carbon footprint. Campaigning in New Hampshire, Buttigieg also promised to develop “science-based standards” for PFAS chemical levels in drinking water and additional funding to assess the health risks of PFAS exposure. Read Buttigieg’s climate plan and Buttigieg’s infrastructure plan.


Mike Bloomberg

The former New York mayor, who co-authored a 2017 book on fight climate change and helped fund the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign, says he wants to slash greenhouse gas emissions across the United States by 50 percent in 10 years and propel the country to full decarbonization before 2050. As part of a separate infrastructure plan, Bloomberg proposes  $100 billion in new spending over 10 years on clean water initiatives and says he’d focus on the 100 cities with the worst water infrastructure — including Flint — in his first 100 days in office. Read Bloomberg’s climate plan and Bloomberg’s infrastructure plan

Andrew Yang

Andrew Yang

The New York entrepreneur wants to push for net-zero emissions by 2049 and is proposing $4.87 trillion in new spending to get there. His plan includes $3 trillion to finance loans for household renewable energy installations over 20 years. Yang has also proposed a carbon fee and dividend he says would push businesses to reduce emissions and transition away from fossil fuels. Read Yang’s climate change plan


Amy Klobuchar 

Klobuchar has promised to introduce “sweeping” climate change legislation within the first 100 days of her presidency that would put the U.S. on a path to net zero emissions by 2050. But she won’t wait for congress and has promised executive action to rejoin international agreements and restore energy and automotive emission regulations. Along with Warren and Sanders, Klobuchar is co-sponsor on a Senate bill that would require the EPA to designate PFAS chemicals as hazardous substances under existing environmental law, which would subject businesses to regulations and cleanup costs.  Read Klobuchar’s climate change plan


Tom Steyer

The California hedge fund manager is a long-time climate activist and has helped bankroll clean energy ballot proposals in Michigan and other states. Steyer is proposing a “justice-centered” climate plan that would prioritize “communities that have been treated as environmental dumping grounds for far too long.” His plan calls for $2 trillion in federal spending over 10 years to end greenhouse gas emissions by 2045. He wants to create a civilian climate corps and a cabinet-level position to coordinate the county’s climate change response. Read Steyer’s climate change 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 

Michael Bennet

Michael Bennet

The U.S. senator from Colorado wants to boost land an ocean conservation, require energy providers to offer zero-emission energy to customers that want it and convene a global climate summit within the first 100 days of his administration. Bennet also proposes creating a climate bank to facilitate private sector investments in new clean energy infrastructure. Read Bennet’s climate plan 

Deval Patrick

Deval Patrick with the Rev. Jesse Jackson

Deval Patrick

The former Massachusetts governor, who is still running but did not qualify for the Michigan primary ballot because of faulty signatures, is a former oil executive proposing to transition the U.S. to a carbon-neutral economy by 2040. Patrick wants to create a national renewable energy standard that 29 states like Michigan already have, requiring providers to have a certain percentage of their supply come from clean energy sources. Read Patrick’s climate plan 

Note: Cory Booker, Julian Castro, John Delaney, Joe Sestak and Marianne Williamson will also appear on Michigan’s Democratic primary ballot but have dropped out of the presidential race.

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Fri, 02/07/2020 - 8:30am

Not too long ago, a Bridge staffer commented that Bridge did not get involved in Federal politics and that Bridge was published for Michigan matters. I guess when it applies to partisan matters that Bridge agrees with it is alright to ignore those rules.

Mon, 02/10/2020 - 10:19am

Arjay, whom ever is president will administer federal agencies and execute policies that will affect the consequences of the climate crisis on Michigan. Why are you so afraid of competent ethical journalism, the truth, facts?

Mon, 02/10/2020 - 10:26am

Does anyone know what President Trump's plan is? What about the other Republican? Are they still calling it a hoax? Meanwhile houses are falling into the Great Lakes and Michigan Republicans are calling on Governor Whitmer to do something, bail them out with our tax dollars, call it lake living socialism. Right Peter Secchia and company? Heaven forbid they tell the president and congress to tackle climate change and try to mitigate the extreme and unpredictable weather patterns we are enduring. I never met a Republican that didn't want a tax cut and a handout!