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Whether such issues were uppermost in their minds or not, voters yesterday gave a boost to the Chesapeake Bay, and to environmental protection in general, it would seem.

Democratic president-elect Barack Obama ran on a pledge to tackle the threat of climate change, and in his victory speech last night in Chicago's Grant Park (pictured above) he listed "a planet in peril" right after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as he ticked off the greatest challenges facing the nation.  He's called for reducing climate-warming emissions of carbon 80 percent by 2050, using a cap-and-trade regulatory scheme and an infusion of $150 billion in government investment in renewable energy, efficiency and other green technology.

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The party platform Obama ran on also calls for a "comprehensive solution" to restoring national treasures such as the Chesapeake Bay.  As Obama campaign aide David Bancroft wrote in an op-ed in the Baltimore Sun earlier this fall, the Democratic policy statement also pledges to step up enforcement of environmental laws and increases in federal incentives (aka funding) for reducing nutrient and sediment pollution - two of the bay's biggest nemeses.

It's anybody's guess at this point, but would an Obama administration be more likely to settle the recently filed lawsuit by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation over the lack of federal push on bay cleanup?

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How much an Obama administration will be able to do about environmnental problems depends in part on factors beyond its control.  Federal spending is likely to be limited by the flagging national economy, and by the massive debt burden the government has taken on to bail out the financial markets.

Apparently, though, the president-elect will have a somewhat "greener" Congress to work with.  Environment News Services reports that seven of the "dirty dozen" lawmakers targeted by the League of Conservation Voters lost their election bids yesterday.  Though some races are still too close to call, it appears that most of the candidates the league endorsed won.  Here's the rundown.

For another perspective, a Web outfit called enviroVOTE reports that 142 out of 271 winners in yesterday's races were endorsed by environmental groups.  That's about a 14 percent increase in what it calls "eco-friendly" officeholders over the last election.

I can't vouch for all their tallies, but in Maryland, where they say greenies won six out of six elections, the 1st District congressional duel between Democrat Frank Kratovil and Republican Andy Harris is so close (Kratovil had an edge of less than 1,000 votes, out of more than 300,000 ballots cast) the final outcome depends on absentee ballots, or even a recount.  So that one deserves an asterisk, at least for now.  And this race is to replace arguably one of the greener Republican incumbents in Congress, Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest, so if Kratovil does secure the win it may be a wash in the larger picture.

Yesterday's election was far from a green sweep, though.  Sen. James Inhofe, Republican incumbent from Oklahoma, a vocal skeptic and critic of global warming science, won reelection. So did Republican Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska, over an environmentalist-endorsed challenger.

In other election news, Pennsylvania voters approved borrowing $400 million to upgrade and repair water and sewer systems, helping to fix up sewage plants along the Susquehanna River that have been pumping excess nutrients into the Chesapeake Bay.  Communities under the gun to upgrade their plants had been balking at the costs.

(Chicago Tribune photo)

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