On environment, Obama likely to keep walking middle line

WASHINGTON — On election night, President Obama uttered a phrase that thrilled environmentalists.

"We want our children to live in an America that isn't burdened by debt, that isn't weakened by inequality," Obama said, "that isn't threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet."

Environmental optimists run the risk, however, of ending up like a kid who expected a puppy for Christmas and got socks instead. Those in industry who think that Obama's frequent campaign talk about the benefits of oil and gas could mean opening more land to drilling may also be disappointed.

Over the last four years, Obama charted a middle course on the environment that led to landmark pollution rules, growth in clean energy and the continued development of fossil fuels.

For at least much of his second term, there will probably be no sweeping new legislation on climate, air or water pollution, many analysts say, especially with the House of Representatives still controlled by Republicans who view environmental safeguards as economic threats. At the same time, it is unlikely that the administration will throw open vast new swaths of federal lands to oil and gas development.

"This was not a status quo election, but that doesn't mean the president is going to move on a liberal agenda," said Joshua Freed, vice president of the clean energy program at Third Way, a center-left Washington think tank. "Instead, what the president has done over the first term is a good road map of what to look for in his second."

The White House and entities such as the Environmental Protection Agency and Interior and Energy departments will more likely carry on the painstaking work of building out programs and regulations they began in the first term. Some analysts say an incremental approach might stand a better chance than a grand legislative effort to reshape the country's energy sources, cars and air and water quality.

Read more at www.latimes.com