Sen. Allard details stance on environment | AspenTimes.com

Sen. Allard details stance on environment

Allyn Harvey
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Editor’s note: The following interview with U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard comes three weeks after a similar interview with his opponent, former U.S. Attorney Tom Strickland. In coming weeks, The Aspen Times will continue coverage of this hotly contested Senate race with a closer look at each man’s record.

The Aspen Times: What, if anything, is different between now and the last time you faced off against Tom Strickland in 1996?

Wayne Allard: I’ve carried forth with my promise to work hard for the people of Colorado. I’ve held, as of this date, 601 town meetings, going into every county every year and holding a town meeting. And I’ve been present in the Senate voting more than 99 percent of the time.

I’ve gotten considerable legislation through the Senate since elected. I’m real proud of my Clean 14 [list of environmental accomplishments], which, as of last Friday, when the president signed the James Peak Wilderness Bill, of which I was a co-sponsor, it’s gone up to the Clean 15. In that, I’ve created a national park with the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve Act. I’ve passed wilderness legislation, supported creation of a wildlife refuge for the Rocky Flats cleanup area just outside of Denver, pushed for fish recovery in the Colorado River, which more directly affects the Aspen area, and supported stopping overflights at Rocky Mountain National Park.

There are a number of other smaller issues, also involving the environment. I’m chairman and founder of the Senate Renewable Energy and Efficiency Caucus, where we’ve looked at ways of using alternative forms of energy instead relying on the traditional fossil fuels, which are non-renewable. I’ve been a strong proponent of using wind, solar, the fuel cell, biomass, geothermal energy. Its an exciting aspect of what I do in the Congress, taking on new scientific innovations, since I’m a veterinarian scientist myself. Hopefully, we can get something that will happen and make a big difference in people’s lives as far as renewable energy is concerned, making us less dependent on foreign oil.

AT: You make claims to be an environmentalist. How does your stand in favor of drilling in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge figure into your environmental record?

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Allard: As far as the Anwar [Arctic Wildlife Refuge] is concerned, my view is that we need to become less dependent on foreign oil, not more. We shouldn’t be taking some of our large reserves up in the Anwar off the table, because we may very well need it if we get into an outright war with the al Qaeda and perhaps some of the countries in the Middle East.

AT: The president hasn’t been very supportive of renewable energy, have you come out opposing him on funding cutbacks?

Allard: There are several areas where the president and I disagree, and one of the big areas where we’ve disagreed is on renewable energy. I opposed the president on his cuts and supported increased funding to a laboratory here in Colorado that shows a lot of results in their research and how it can be applied in a practical manner.

AT: One environmental group said you come out OK for Colorado, but everywhere else you tend to take an anti-environmentalist stance. How do you explain that?

Allard: Basically, the League of Conservation Voters is an arm of the Democratic Party. They just try and put those of us who are Republicans and support the environment in as unfavorable a light as they can for political purposes.

The big difference in many of those votes, and my record here in Colorado, is that I don’t support mandates out of Washington. I believe in local control. I believe in the state having a greater role in public policy. All these votes where there is a difference, I go for positive incentives to clean up the environment and create open space. Where they are saying we need to have mandates, I think they’ll distort the market in the long run and encourage unnecessary hardships on people, including the people of Colorado.

AT: Are you in favor of making the Bush tax cuts passed last year permanent, including the elimination of the estate tax?

Allard: I’m a real strong supporter of reducing our tax burden. Right now our tax burden as a percentage of gross domestic product is the highest level it’s ever been since World War II. And it’s beginning to drop down a little bit since the temporary reduction we passed a little over a year ago, but I think we need to put those tax cuts in place on a permanent basis.

Particularly, we need to eliminate the death tax or the estate tax. If there is one common theme that’s come up in all of my 601 town meetings is that we have to eliminate the death tax.

AT: Why do you call it the “Death Tax?”

Allard: That’s what it is ? at the time of death when the family is suffering and in somewhat disarray because of an unexpected death in the family, then the federal government steps in and imposes a tax. It’s a tax on assets that have already been taxed over and over again. It causes farms and ranches and family business to be sold. In the case of Colorado, when you’re selling a farm or ranch ? as happened in the Roaring Fork Valley a few years ago ? for estate purposes the real concern is the developers will buy that land and take away the open space of Colorado.

AT: Are you in support of any growth controls to limit developers from taking away open space?

Allard: I think it has to be controlled at the local level. I’m not even comfortable with it being controlled at the state level, let alone in Congress. I think its your county commissioners and City Council members that need to make those decisions. I’m in favor of a bottom up process instead of top down.

AT: In the past you’ve come out in favor of privatizing Social Security. Where in light of the recent stock market woes do you stand on that issue now?

Allard: Again my opponent mischaracterizes my position on Social Security. Social Security is going to go bankrupt around 2016 or 17, according to most sources. The sooner we deal with the problem the better, but we need to give people the choice to stay with the traditional Social Security if that’s what they want. New people coming into the labor market, if they want to begin putting that money into a savings account in a bank, for example, they’ll earn more interest than they would in the Social Security system. They don’t have to put the money in the stock market, but in some cases they will decide that that’s what they want to do.

AT: What do you plan to do with your second term in the Senate?

Allard: I want to continue to be on the Armed Services Committee and work to modernize our military services so we don’t put so many Americans at risk and we continue to build a strong defense. Both at home and abroad we need to have a more secure nation.

I also will continue to serve on the Banking Committee, where I’ll take a key role on affordable housing. I know affordable housing is important to many of the ski areas; it’s important all over the state of Colorado, actually. I’ve done a considerable amount of work already working with the housing authorities in the state of Colorado.

I want to continue to work with mass transit. In the more urban areas working on mass transit and in the rural areas working to see if we can get some buses available. I’ve worked with small communities, like Aspen, in the past so that they would be able to have some form of mass transit as they try to move their citizens around.

AT: Tom Strickland said it was a joke for you to call yourself a supporter of mass transit, pointing to your votes as a state senator. Have you changed your tune on public transportation over the last 10 years?

Allard: I’ve always been a supporter of public transportation, but I’ve always felt it should be started at the local level. It shouldn’t be something driven out of Washington. When I was on the environment and public works committee, I helped change the formula to increase Colorado’s share of transportation dollars, and I changed a second formula to increase Colorado’s share of mass transit dollars.

I don’t know where my opponent would get out of my record that I haven’t accomplished anything for mass transit in Colorado. In fact, a lot of what has happened has been because I have helped to bring more dollars to Colorado. It’s an important issue for Colorado and I recognize that.

AT: As a member of the Senate Banking Committee, you’ve come out against accounting reform in the past …

Allard: No. Again my opponent is distorting my record. I was a supporter of accounting reforms. I was the only Republican on the banking committee who voted to support strong corporate reform.

AT: When was that?

Allard: That was this spring. We had a number of hearings we held in the banking committee, and when it was all over with I voted for the strongest banking reform measures that came up in the committee. There was an amendment that was put forward by my Republican colleagues that would have lessened those reforms. I voted against my own Republican colleagues to sustain tough banking reform. I think we may need to do even more.

AT: How do you come out on the creation of the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Depository and the potential transport of nuclear waste through Colorado?

Allard: We have, in Colorado, storage of nuclear rods from a nuclear power plant ? about 14 metric tons ? within a 75-mile radius of 2.5 million people. It’s in a very unsafe location. I would say that Yucca Mountain provides us with a safe way of storing it.

The movement of waste to Yucca Mountain will not go through western Colorado. They don’t haul nuclear material over mountain passes. They don’t haul it through tunnels. They don’t haul it through congested areas. It will be hauled either through New Mexico or Wyoming, where they don’t have mountain passes and where they don’t have the population.

AT: Where do you stand on the potential invasion of Iraq by U.S. forces, and do you think President Bush should seek a declaration of war before initiating military action?

Allard: If the president thinks he has to invade or attack Iraq, he needs to make his case to Congress and the American people. And he needs to make his case to our allies. There will be some allies that don’t go along with us, but at least he needs to take the time to make his case. I don’t think the president will make an unprovoked attack. I believe that if he attacks he’ll have justification.

I think he should consult with Congress. We don’t declare wars anymore. Vietnam, Korea, I don’t think we’ve declared war since WW II, but certainly he needs to consult with Congress.

Allyn Harvey’s e-mail address is aharvey@aspentimes.com