Carnahan, Talent split on environment, unless issues are local

Sunday, September 29, 2002

WASHINGTON -- Environmental groups are running television ads that praise Democratic Sen. Jean Carnahan, but they don't mention the occasions when she has opposed them.

The subject illustrates sharp difference between Carnahan and Republican challenger Jim Talent, except when it comes to policies that could harm Missouri jobs.

Carnahan has sided against environmentalists when the debate hits close to home, such as on changing the Missouri River's flow to protect fish and birds, or requiring more fuel-efficient vehicles.

"I think it's important that we preserve the use of the river for barge traffic," she said in an interview. "Even the thought of it flooding in the spring because of a high rise would just devastate our farmers along the river."

Called the nation's most endangered river by environmentalists, the Missouri River is the focus of a colossal debate pitting environmentalists and upstream states, such as South Dakota and Montana, against the shipping and farming industries in downstream states, such as Missouri.

At odds with party leader

Missouri politicians -- including Talent, a former four-term congressman -- are united in their enmity toward a more seasonal ebb and flow. Carnahan notes that her opposition is at odds with her party's leader in the Senate, Democrat Tom Daschle of South Dakota.

"The only thing is, when I'm united on this, I have to be opposed to Daschle at the same time, so it's a little more courageous for me," Carnahan said.

The Sierra Club is airing commercials praising Carnahan and criticizing Talent, and it has been blanketing St. Louis suburbs with voter guides to that effect. The Missouri River is not among the issues listed, which the Sierra Club said is because it's a national, long-term issue.

In many cases, Talent has opposed stricter regulation of federal clean air and clean water laws. Environmental groups revile him, but these efforts have made him a hero to small business and farm groups who view federal rules, particularly on the environment, as costly and complicated.

A healthy environment requires a healthy economy, Talent said.

"We all want clean air and clean water," said Talent, who chaired the Small Business Committee in the House. "One thing I do emphasize is that prosperity is necessary for everything we want to do, and that includes environmental quality. Poor countries do not have quality environments."

On issues beyond Missouri's borders, the two differ sharply. Among their differences are:

Drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Carnahan voted against President Bush's plan for oil exploration when the Senate rejected the refuge plan.

Talent is a supporter who argues it would create jobs and reduce dependence on oil from the Middle East.

Creating a radioactive waste dump at Yucca Mountain in the Nevada desert. The Senate approved it, but Carnahan opposed it.

Talent's record is mixed on the issue, but he supports the Senate-passed measure.

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