Presidential candidate Steve Forbes ventured off his stock defense of the flat tax Wednesday to denounce “excesses” that make the federal Environmental Protection Agency worse than the IRS.
“Those excesses have to be curbed,” Forbes told Milford Rotary Club members over lunch. “The EPA and the Corps of Engineers are going far beyond their mandate.”
It was a rare moment: Environmental issues have been largely ignored so far by most candidates.
And it isn’t part of the magazine publisher’s standard speech of “hope, growth and opportunity” that he says a simplified tax system will generate.
Forbes went “off message” - as the politically savvy like to say - to answer a question from the crowd about whether he wants to change the EPA as well as the Internal Revenue Service.
The country should “respect science, not go in for emotion,” Forbes said, and spend less time in court over pollution laws.
He cited an example - without giving many details - of a parking lot in Ohio where contaminated dirt had to be dug up, sterilized and replaced before it was covered.
“Let’s take (Superfund cleanup cases) out of the courts. If you have a mess, clean it up.”
Such generalities are typical for GOP candidates in New Hampshire, say those interested in both environmental issues and property rights.
“The candidates aren’t saying very much on the environment,” said Pilar Olivo of the New Hampshire Conservation Voter Education Project. “We ask their staffs for position papers…and most don’t have them. (Bob) Dole sends us stuff on the economy.”
The project and groups such as the New Hampshire Republicans for Responsible Conservation say the candidates should address those issues.
A recent study by The Spokesman-Review and KHQ-TV indicates Washington state voters would agree: A majority said a candidate’s stand on changes to the Endangered Species Act and federal lands policy is important to them.
Callers to a special election hotline the newspaper established also want to know where the candidates stand on the environment and on such issues as reimbursing landowners when laws affect the value of their property.
Visits to various candidates’ headquarters throughout the week found New Hampshire campaign officials unable to discuss their candidate’s stands on environmental and property rights issues.
Most referred the questions to national campaign officials, who usually could provide statements.
Here’s a brief look at their stands, gleaned from written statements and some candidates’ comments at public appearances:
Dole: Calls for a “common sense approach to environmental protection,” which includes reimbursing landowners if regulations reduce the use of their property and requiring agencies to analyze the costs and benefits of all regulations and cleanups. Does not support higher fees for ranchers who graze cattle on federal land, but would consider higher fees for mining on federal lands.
Pat Buchanan: Would not reauthorize current Endangered Species Act, and wants cost-benefit analysis on all federal environmental and energy laws. Supports proposed cuts of about 35 percent to the EPA budget and would change mining laws to require a “fair market return” from companies that mine on federal land. “Just as we believe there should be no taxation without representation, we believe in no regulatory deprivation of property rights without just compensation.”
Lamar Alexander: Says the Endangered Species Act should be revised to use better scientific methods and offer incentives to property owners to protect species. Wants cost-benefit analyses for federal regulations, fair market return for mining on federal land. “Local concerns and incentives will do more than anything else to clean up the environment.” Forbes: Believes the country “should pay attention to science and not be swayed by emotion” on issues such as Alar, a chemical used on apples. Wants unspecified changes in the Endangered Species Act. Would compensate landowners facing restrictions from federal laws.
Alan Keyes: Would transfer some federal lands to state and local governments, or sell it to citizens. Would not increase grazing fees on federal lands, but would consider fair market returns for mining on federal land. Would replace Endangered Species Act with voluntary tax incentives.
Richard Lugar: Favors increases in federal grazing and mining fees, believes federal government should offer incentives to landowners to protect species before animals or plants reach “the crash point of near extinction.” Would compensate landowners affected by federal laws. Supports cost-benefit studies for environmental laws, similar to those used in acid rain legislation.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo
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