Salazar: Help needed for jobless, roads, Big Three | AspenTimes.com

Salazar: Help needed for jobless, roads, Big Three

Catherine Tsai
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

DENVER ” Sen. Ken Salazar said Tuesday that Congress should help the unemployed, improve roads and bridges and assist the ailing auto industry as the economy continues to deteriorate.

“We need to pass economic stimulus legislation to try to get the economy out of the ditch and back on track,” he said in a conference call with reporters.

Legislation to boost the economy is still being crafted, but Salazar said he supports extending unemployment insurance benefits and investing in infrastructure, which would repair roads and bridges in sore need of repair while also providing jobs.

Meanwhile, U.S. automotive manufacturers need to find a way to compete again, Salazar said.

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson told Congress on Tuesday that the administration opposes using the government’s $700 billion financial bailout fund to help Detroit’s Big Three automakers.

Salazar said it’s unclear what any aid package for automakers might look like. His spokesman, Matt Lee-Ashley, said after the call that Salazar generally supports using part of the $700 billion rescue package for the auto industry, which may not require additional legislation.

“In Colorado, 30,000 jobs are associated with the auto retail industry. If the Big Three fail, our economy will take another huge hit,” Salazar said.

Salazar said any aid package for automakers should require the Big Three to embrace technology that will improve energy efficiency.

While the economy has been a top issue for lawmakers, Salazar also has spoken out on new rules the Interior Department released Monday on oil shale development in President George W. Bush’s last months in office.

Salazar said it was “foolhardy” to release regulations before research is complete on whether it is commercially viable, how much energy and water would be needed to get oil out of the rock, and what effect oil shale development would have on land.

He said it was too early to tell whether President-elect Barack Obama’s administration might revisit the regulations.

“I’m not opposed to oil shale development. I just want to make sure as we move forward, we’re not going to run roughshod over Colorado land and water,” Salazar said.

Several environmental groups told Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne in a letter Monday that the law requires him to allow the public to file protests before the rules become final.

They said they’re considering suing unless he allows such protests.

The groups say an oil shale environmental impact statement includes changes to 12 BLM management plans, and the public hasn’t had a chance to comment on them.


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