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Presidential candidates stack up on eco-issues

By Sharon Collins
CNN Headline News

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• The Candidates: Bush | Kerry
Environmental Politics
Democratic Party
George W. Bush
Natural resources

(CNN) -- There's been a lot of political analysis concerning why former Vice President Al Gore backed Howard Dean for the Democratic presidential nomination and who in the party has the best chance of beating President Bush in the next election.

But little has been said about which Democrat has the best chance of appealing to environmentalists. Green groups like the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council and Greenpeace have voiced strong opposition to White House policies on the environment. And the League of Conservation Voters (LCV), Washington's green political machine, says eco-issues may not always be the most important subjects to voters, but they're still influential in crucial swing states.

What are the greens looking for?

There's a wide range of issues, such as global warming and gasoline additives. However, the LCV puts Sens. John Kerry and Joe Lieberman out front as two Democrats with exceptional records on environmental protection.

Check the Web sites of the candidates, and here's what you'll find:

• Wesley Clark says he'll reverse the Bush administration's changes in the clean air and water acts and reinstate the superfund tax on companies that generate toxic waste.

• Sen. John Edwards has pushed for action on climate change, and introduced legislation for tougher standards for air and water around large factory farms.

• Rep. Dick Gephardt has an extensive position paper on his Web site and says he wants to make the U.S. energy-independent within 10 years.

• Kerry puts reducing dependence on foreign oil as a priority. He has a 20-page outline of his eco-policy, including immediate reversal of recent changes in air and water regulations.

• Rep. Dennis Kucinich promises to support the Kyoto Protocol and push for labels on genetically engineered food.

• Lieberman has a great deal on his Web site. He joined forces with Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona on a Senate bill that aims at reducing U.S. greenhouse emissions.

• Dean says he'll push to make the Environmental Protection Agency a Cabinet-level department. He says he's committed to promoting renewable energies.

(Al Sharpton and Carol Moseley Braun don't discuss the environment on their Web sites.)

Although the better-known environmental groups are certain to support the Democratic candidates, there are many people who agree with the changes made by President Bush, who promotes his forest initiatives and Clear Skies policy as significant environmental advances. The President devotes an extensive section of his Web site to those and other such issues.

And in the last Gallup Poll taken on the issue, in March, those surveyed were split evenly on whether the president was doing a good job protecting the Earth.

Kristyn Martin contributed to this report.

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