As the new mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel will have some big shoes to fill when it comes to environmental policy.
When he takes office, Emanuel will replace Mayor Richard Daley, who over the last decade has made several commitments to green policies in Chicago. In 2006, Daley’s green leanings were profiled in a piece by Time magazine, in which Eric Ferkenhoff reported that Daley had given priority to green policies in the Windy City. "We're aggressive in terms of the environment and we're educating the people and bringing business along," Daley said at the time. The article explained how Daley shut down the lakefront airport known as Miegs Field to create a park. Daley created new green ways of doing things, like paving alleys with water-absorbing asphalt and investing in a green fleet of city vehicles that can't be left idle for more than five minutes. It's a tough environmental legacy for the next mayor to follow.
So now the question is: How green is Rahm?
As a U.S. representative for Illinois, Emanuel scored a 95 on the annual League of Conservation Voters score card. That’s a good indication that he is a strong environmental candidate. In 2008, before leaving his post to become President Obama’s chief of staff, Emanuel voted to provide environmental education grants for outdoor activities. That same year, he supported giving Amtrak nearly $10 billion for improvements through 2013. In 2005, Emanuel opposed a Republican plan to deauthorize “critical habitat” designations for endangered species. Two years prior to that vote, Emanuel opposed a plan to speed up the approval process for forest-thinning projects around the nation.
On energy policy, Emanuel is right where many would expect the former Obama chief of staff to be. In 2003 and 2004, then-Rep. Emanuel opposed the now infamous Bush-Cheney national energy policies. While Emanuel has taken votes to invest in American biofuel, and providing tax credits for renewable electricity with PAYGO offsets, he has been steadfastly opposed to giving any more handouts to the dirty energy industry. Emanuel’s record indicates that he voted to criminalize oil cartels like OPEC. In 2007, Emanuel voted to remove subsidies for oil and gas; a year before that, he voted to keep a moratorium on offshore drilling. And since 2000, Emanuel has been on the record supporting a credit trading system for those who emit greenhouse gases.
Those are big-picture policy issues that Emanuel was voting on as a member of the House of Representatives. As mayor, he will be facing issues at the ground level. It will be interesting to see how Emanuel’s record in the House will translate to policy as Chicago’s chief executive. For now, all we know is the voting record, and it seems pretty green.