Environmental groups are cheering the election of Barack Obama and an end to an era they view as less than friendly to the environment. “The Bush administration has done a lot of damage to our nation’s environmental protections over the past eight years,” says Mike Daulton, National Audubon Society’s legislative director.

Looking ahead, environmentalists’ priorities include securing passage of global warming legislation, limiting offshore oil drilling and reversing changes to the Endangered Species Act. Other environmental goals dovetail with those that construction groups support, such as reauthorizing Clean Water State Revolving Funds and boosting spending on water infrastructure.

The National Utility Contractors Association is working with lawmakers to include water infrastructure in the pending economic stimulus package, says Eben Wyman, vice president for government relations. Funding prospects don’t look strong in the lame-duck session, but Wyman says, “We are encouraged that it seems an Obama administration will be much more understanding of the need to reinvest in water infrastructure.”

Environmental Top Priorities
Addressing global warming
Restoring the Endangered Species Act
Limiting offshore oil and gas development
Creating green jobs

Federal money may be tight, but David Holtz, spokesman for Clean Water Action, is encouraged by talk on Capitol Hill about funding water infrastructure projects to stimulate jobs. “There’s an opportunity to come up with a plan that puts people to work and creates long-lasting value for society by addressing these vast needs in our water infrastructure,” he says. “It’s an issue that’s definitely at the forefront.”

Environmentalists also are making the job-creation argument as they lobby for renewable-energy legislation. They note Obama’s commitment to creating green jobs through increased use of renewables. “We’re heavily focused on jobs in the alternative-energy sectors and the environmental restoration fields,” says John Kostyack, the National Wildlife Federation’s executive director for wildlife conservation and global warming. Obama is expected to unveil an energy plan early in his administration, and Daulton expects an energy bill to be introduced in the opening months of the new Congress.

Addressing global warming is another major green issue. Although a bill proposed by Sens. John Warner (R-Va.) and Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) died quickly last summer, key lawmakers are committed to passing a climate-change measure, says Robert Dewey, Defenders of Wildlife’s vice president for government relations. Some also want Obama to move quickly in regulating carbon dioxide emissions.