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This is the first in an occasional series analyzing the


issues, records and platforms of the candidates seeking the


governorship in the upcoming election. This installment focuses on


environmental protection.



One of West Virginia's gubernatorial candidates promises that he


will "streamline and simplify" the environmental permitting





"We need regulations to protect people," says the candidate's economic


development plan, posted on his campaign Internet site.



"But sometimes we go too far and create regulations that do not work as


intended and end up restricting the development of new business."



The candidate? Incumbent Republican Gov. Cecil Underwood?



Wrong. It's Democratic nominee Bob Wise.



In May, Wise announced that he would give up the U.S. House seat he has


held since 1983. He said he wanted to challenge Underwood for governor.



Wise mentioned the environment briefly in his announcement.



"We can't fall into the trap of pitting our economy against the


environment," Wise said. "That's a false choice.



"We can protect and preserve our environment and have a healthy and


growing economy," he said. "I believe they can work hand in hand





Since then, Wise has said little about protecting mountains and trees


or cleaning up the state's water and air.



Over the last four years, Underwood has put a cadre of former industry


lawyers, lobbyists and executives in charge of the state Division of


Environmental Protection.



The administration has opposed stronger air quality rules, fought


federal government efforts to clean up polluted state streams and backed


mountaintop removal coal mining.



Wise quietly promises to do better. He says that he won't let industry


run roughshod over regulators at DEP.



But to date, Wise has not made a campaign issue of Underwood's


pro-industry slant. Like the governor, Wise says his main campaign issue


is economic development.



In his economic plan, Wise says he will review state regulations to


make sure they are not too much of a burden on business. He promises to


hire an ombudsman in the Governor's Office, "to assist in dispute


resolution and negotiations between companies and state regulatory


agencies regarding permitting and licensing."



A review of their records shows that, on most major


environmental issues that face West Virginia, it's hard to


tell the Democratic challenger from the incumbent Republican governor:



- The most contentious environmental debate in the state today


is mountaintop removal.



Underwood wants to overturn Chief U.S. District Judge Charles H. Haden


II's ruling to limit the size of valley fills. So does Wise.



- The federal government is trying to crack down on coal-fired power


plant emissions that cause smog and create health hazards.



Underwood wants to block the U.S. Environmental Protection


Agency from implementing its pollution-limiting plan. So does Wise.



Wise and Underwood differ significantly on only one major


environmental issue, preservation of Blackwater Canyon in Tucker





Underwood bought a small part of the canyon from timber operator John





But the deal gives Crites a much-inflated price, and the governor says


his respect for private property rights makes him hesitate to push Crites


to sell more of the canyon.



"The West Virginia businessman who owns the land has been under no


obligation to negotiate with the state over the private property that he


rightfully owns," Underwood has said.



In Congress, Wise has supported a federal study of making Blackwater


Canyon a national park. He said recently that he believes the area should


be public property, and promised to turn up the heat on Crites to sell.



"I think it ought to be preserved," Wise said. "I think you can


  • egotiate with the owner in such a way that he will sell it. The state can

    clearly show some determination."



    Ignoring the issue



    So far in the campaign neither of the major candidates has


    highlighted any proposals to improve environmental protection in


    West Virginia.



    In the "Issues" section of his campaign Web site, Underwood


    mentions the environment only twice: An entry under the "Jobs" section


  • ays that the governor is, "Saving our jobs - fighting economic

    devastation of new federal air regulations." Under the "Technology"


  • ection, the Web site touts the Division of Environmental

    Protection's new computer.



    On his campaign Web site, Wise proudly notes that he authored chemical


    industry public right-to-know laws after the 1984 Bhopal disaster. Because


    of those laws, citizens can find out how much pollution their local


    chemical plant emits, and learn where toxic substances are stored in their





    Since then Wise has voted to limit the amount of information available


    to the public about environmental dangers in their communities.



    Last year, for example, Wise voted to eliminate fines for small


    businesses that violate pollution record-keeping rules.



    Novelist Denise Giardina is the gubernatorial candidate who has been


    most outspoken in her support for strong environmental protections.


    Giardina decided to run after she got involved in the fight against


    mountaintop removal.



    "Agencies which supposedly exist to protect the environment are in fact


    run by industry hacks who think their mission is to grease the wheels for


    polluters and ward off citizen complaints," Giardina said.



    "In a Denise Giardina administration, the [Division] of


    Environmental Protection will be just that," she said. "The


    protection of our air, water and other resources will be the priority. And


    where regulations need tightening, as in the timber industry, I will push


    for those regulations."



    Bob Myers, the Libertarian candidate for governor, says that he would


    turn state environmental protection duties over to a nonprofit





    A Wise record



    Over the years, Wise has had a mixed record on the environment in


    Congress, according to the League of Conservation Voters, a national group


    that monitors legislative actions the affect the environment.



    In 1995, he voted with the League 100 percent of the time. That year,


    the Republicans took over the House. They pushed to dismantle many federal


    environmental protections. Every time, Wise voted with the


    Democratic majority to fend off the GOP onslaught.



    But a year earlier, when the Democrats controlled the House, Wise


    co-sponsored legislation to weaken federal regulations on the use of


    pesticides and to limit pesticide residues on food. Also in 1994, Wise


  • ponsored a bill to weaken the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.


    Since 1995, Wise has received annual ratings of 54 percent, 63 percent,


    69 percent and 50 percent from the League.



    Wise received poor marks from the League for his repeated votes in


    favor of government subsidies for logging roads in national forests and


  • ugar plantations that pollute the Everglades.


    Closer to home, Wise has angered environmental groups with his


    outspoken support for construction of Corridor H, the four-lane highway


    through the Potomac Highlands.



    "I realize this is not going to make everyone happy," Wise said in a


    1996 House floor speech. "[But] it has been too long in contention, and at


    least in the West Virginia section it is important that this highway be





    Throughout the 1990s, Wise also supported construction of a pulp and


    paper mill proposed for Apple Grove in Mason County. Environmentalists


  • aid the mill would pollute the Ohio River and clearcut the state's




    Underwood administration



    When he ran for governor in 1996, Underwood staunchly backed those


    projects as well. That year, environmental groups supported his


    Democratic opponent, Charlotte Pritt.



    Since he took office in early 1997, Underwood has been in an almost


    constant battle with environmental groups.



    The governor has repeatedly criticized citizens who went to court


    because of their concerns that Corridor H wasn't needed and would cause


    great environmental damage.



    "I regret that a small minority of people continues to try to


    circumvent the clear wishes of an overwhelming majority of citizens in the


    region and all of their elected leaders," he said in 1997.



    Underwood has led a coalition of regional governors who challenged the


    EPA's proposal to reduce power plant emissions.



    The governor appointed another timber company official to head the


  • tate Division of Forestry, and did nothing to beef up regulation of the

  • tate's growing timber industry. Underwood also drew protests when he

    proposed to cut down dozens of trees at the state Capitol to make way for


    a new parking garage and bus turn-around.



    When Underwood talks about the environment, it's usually to do one of


    two things.



    First, the governor depicts federal agencies as outsiders bent on


    destroying West Virginia's already struggling economy.



    "Forces beyond our state borders threaten our growth and our future,"


    Underwood declared in his 1999 State of the State address.



    "Federal bureaucrats use oppressive, unreasonable regulations and


    international treaties to impose air quality standards that jeopardize


    thousands of West Virginia jobs."



    Second, Underwood repeats the common mantra that economic growth


    doesn't mean a dirty environment.



    "We can protect the environment without turning out the lights and


    costing jobs," the governor said recently. "We believe we have to do





    Earlier this year, Underwood signed into law bills that reformed the


  • tate's quarry regulations and provided increased protections for Kanawha

    State Forest outside Charleston. But the governor was not considered a


    force behind either measure.



    During his State of the State address in January, Underwood called for


    the state to create a program to educate public school students about


    environmental issues. The state Department of Education


    already had such a program.



    In that same speech, the governor unveiled a proposal for the state to


    clean up old tires that litter the countryside. The administration was


  • low to offer a detailed plan. But the state Division of Highways, funded

    with a tax on motor vehicle title transfers, has since made the program


    into a success.



    Dealing with King Coal



    In late 1998, Wise wrote a letter to the U.S. Office of Surface Mining


    to call for a moratorium on new mountaintop removal permits.



    Wise cited Charleston Gazette reports that dozens of permits issued by


    the DEP did not comply with federal and state mining rules.



    "The apparent lack of oversight and ambiguity of our state law have led


    to questions and controversy with regard to mountaintop removal," Wise


  • aid at the time. Wise said that a moratorium would be "the only

    responsible thing to do."



    Since then, Wise has changed his tune.



    Federal agencies have cracked down on DEP. Permit applications receive


    more scrutiny, and take longer to be approved. Haden issued a ruling that,


    if upheld, could substantially reduce the size of mountaintop removal





    Along with the rest of the state's political leadership, Wise has


    chastised federal agencies for slowing down permits. He called for higher


    courts or Congress to overturn Haden's ruling.



    "As a result of environmental legislation ... surface mining


    will never be the same again in the state of West Virginia," Wise said in


    a House floor speech.



    "So great progress has been made. The question is whether balance will


    be preserved," he said. "And the court's decision takes it too far the


    other way."



    Underwood has been even more pro-coal.



    The governor called the date of Haden's ruling, "the bleakest day in


    the recent history of West Virginia.



    "A federal court decision has placed the future of thousands of West


    Virginia families at risk."



    Underwood has vowed repeatedly to always stand up for the coal industry


    and its workers.



    "Coal remains our most abundant resource, though one with an uncertain


    future," the governor said earlier this year. "We must not turn our back


    on coal miners, their families and the many small businesses they


  • upport."


    Occasionally, Wise has tried to distance himself from Underwood on


    issues related to coal.



    In August, the governor suggested that he didn't believe scientific


    evidence that the burning of fossil fuels is changing global climate.



    "You talk about global warming," Underwood said. "Your weather people


    can't predict the weather outside tomorrow morning, yet you want to


    predict it 100 years from now."



    Wise responded that he believes in global warming, and thinks it is a


    problem that needs to be addressed.



    The congressman's answer, though, is to push for more federal funding


    for clean coal technology.



    Repeated House votes for that funding have earned Wise low marks from


    the League of Conservation Voters. The group points out that clean coal


    programs focus on removing other pollutants from power plant emissions.


    Scientists can't do anything about the coal burning's creation of carbon


    dioxide, the major greenhouse gas.



    Since Labor Day, Wise has criticized Underwood several times for


  • upporting the so-called "mitigation bill" in 1998. This state legislation

    made it cheaper and easier for coal operators to bury bigger streams under


    larger valley fills.



    Wise attacked the governor because the bill focused the attention of


    federal regulators on mountaintop removal. Wise said that he would have


    opposed the bill because this attention slowed down permit approvals - not


    because it was harmful to the environment.



    Wise has also chided the governor for appointing three successive coal


    operators to run the DEP.



    But last week, former DEP Director David Callaghan started speaking out


    in favor of Wise's campaign. Callaghan was DEP director during most of


    Gov. Gaston Caperton's second term, when mountaintop removal was


    accelerating across Southern West Virginia.



    Wise has declined to promise to appoint someone from the


    environmental community to be the agency's director. But he pledges


    changes at DEP.



    "I will not have someone from the coal industry running DEP," he said.


    "It's going to be a different DEP.



    "We aren't the same," Wise said of the two major candidates'


    environmental stances. "We're totally different."






    Future installments of "Issues 2000: The Race for Governor" will


    appear in the coming weeks in the Sunday Gazette-Mail and The Charleston








    To contact staff writer Ken Ward Jr., use e-mail or call 348-1702.




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