Graduation Year


Document Type

Senior Thesis


Bachelor of Arts

Primary Major

Political Science

Primary Minor

Ecology and Environmental Sciences

Second Minor


Thesis Advisor

Alison Howard, MA


Climate change is an existential threat to humans and everyday life, yet in recent years Congress has been unable to pass comprehensive environmental policy that addresses climate change. Collaboration between both parties in Congress is often necessary for passing legislation. There was a time when bipartisanship was common, and Congress passed significant environmental legislation. In particular, this happened during the 1970s with the Clean Water Act in 1972, the Endangered Species Act in 1973, the Safe Drinking Water Act in 1974, and the Toxic Substances Control Act and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act in 1976. However, since 1994, increased polarization and a lack of bipartisan cooperation in Congress has prevented the passage of comprehensive climate change/environmental policy legislation. To the point that collaborative legislation is needed to address some of the most pressing issues in our country and world, the absence of bipartisan cooperation is dangerous. What factors contribute to bipartisan support for environmental policy in Congress? Using case study method, I examine environmental legislation from 1970, 1990, 2009, and 2016 to explore the factors that are important for passing comprehensive environmental legislation. I hypothesize that single party control of Congress, adherence to regular order, residency of members in Washington, D.C., primaries that nominate centrist candidates, a strong national economy, and wide acknowledgement of climate change as an issue are important for bipartisan cooperation. Understanding the factors that contribute to bipartisan support in Congress for environmental policy will help to explain how members might be able to overcome these obstacles and ultimately pass legislation that addresses this important policy area.