Would Bernie Sanders Delay the Obama Climate Initiative?

Watching Wednesday's Democratic debate between Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I was startled to hear Clinton claim that Sanders said he would delay Obama's Clean Power Plan rule. PolitiFact investigated, though the result wasn't clear-cut.

3 minute read

March 14, 2016, 5:00 AM PDT

By Irvin Dawid


The Clean Power Plan is President Barack Obama's signature climate initiative, so when I heard Clinton proclaim during Wednesday's (March 9) Washington Post-Univision Democratic debate in Miami, "The Clean Power Plan is something that Sen. Sanders has said he would delay implementing," I suspected there might be something she wasn't telling us. Fortunately, PolitiFact saved me from searching through the web for what it might be.

"We searched Google, LexisNexis and CQ for comments Sanders has made on the plan and found no evidence that Sanders has said he wants to delay the implementation," writes Linda Qiu of PolitiFact. "The Clinton campaign referred us to Sanders’ Feb. 21 interview with Grist, an environmental online magazine." 

Now PolitiFact rates Clinton's charge as "false," but in reading the Grist piece, which is based not on Sander's position on climate change but what Sanders would do "to halt fracking not just on public land but on private land too," and two articles based on that interview appearing in The Hill and LegalPlanet, I understood Clinton's charge, though as I suspected, she omitted a major part of Sander's position on the Clean Power Plan.

In that interview with Grist's Ben Adler, Sanders indicated "six significant executive actions that a President Sanders would likely take to put the squeeze on fracking and natural gas," including:

In response, Richard L. Revesz, dean emeritus and a professor at New York University School of Law, blogged in The Hill:

It is [...] troubling that Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.) has been reported as advocating changing the Clean Power Plan to also regulate methane emissions that result from fossil fuel extraction. The Clean Power Plan cannot be changed at the stroke of the pen. Just as the Republican presidential candidates could not accomplish their stated goal of repealing various regulations on their first day in office, neither can such regulations be strengthened instantaneously...

Similarly, Ann Carlson of the UCLA School of Law, writes in LegalPlanet: 

Revising the Clean Power Plan would cause significant delay in its implementation simply because of the procedural requirements  of notice and comment ..... [Emphasis added]

Clinton really just restated what Professor Carlson wrote last month, almost word-for-word, in fact, about how Sanders anti-fracking platform would jeopardize the country's most important climate initiative, though Sanders never said he would delay its implementation. Carlson added that Sander's "strategy also raises pretty starkly the dilemma raised by a strategy that elevates principle over pragmatism," perhaps validating one of Clinton's campaign themes.

Last word goes to Grist writer Ben Adler, whose Feb. 21 article is the source of the confusion, writes on March 11 that Clinton's charge "turns out to be a misleading interpretation of a very different Sanders proposal — one first reported by me."

Thursday, March 10, 2016 in PolitiFact

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