First Gubernatorial Debate: The Environment

Mike Cason, political reporter for the Montgomery Advertiser:

Mr. Riley, several major environmental concerns are centered in your congressional district - the army weapons incinerator, PCB pollution from an old chemical plant, and the water wars dispute with Florida and Georgia. The League of Conservation Voters gives you a grade of zero for your congressional voting record. How can you convince voters that you would take strong positions to protect the environment?

Congressman Riley:

Well Mike, I think the easiest way is to look at the vote that I've got out of Calhoun County. We have been addressing these issues now for the last four or five years and we do have a problem, there's no doubt. We're building a billion dollar incinerator to get rid of some of the most deadly weapons of mass destruction this nation has ever known. And it's up to us to make sure that we do it safely, efficiently, and as quickly as possible. Because if we don't that could become a target for the next terrorist action.

That would be devastating not only to that county, but to Alabama as a whole. We have to do everything that we possibly can up there to make sure that the level of safety is never compromised and it's not going to be, not as long as I have anything to do with it. I'm proud of my environmental record as anybody can be. does that mean that I support every liberal, left wing bill that comes to Congress? No I don't. But, common sense conservation makes sense and that's what my voting record has shown for the last six years.

Mike Cason:

I don't know that the group that gave you a zero is a liberal, left wing organization because four of the eleven congressman they recognize are Republicans. However, I also wanted to ask you, governor Siegelman filed a lawsuit that resulted in delaying the incineration until more federal funds were provided for protection for the people in that area. What have you done that compares to that, as far as that issue?

Congressman Riley:

Well, there's two ways to solve a problem. One is to work with the system to make sure it happens and that's what I've tried to do. I've tried as hard as I possibly can to do that. Another way is to do things like filing suits, that I think only slows down the process and truly exacerbates the problem. Now the Governor got headlines when he said, "I will not let a match be struck in Calhoun County until all of this is happening." Not one time did he come to Washington, and sit down with the director of FEMA, sit down with C7 director and make sure we can work together cooperatively to make this happen.

Governor Siegelman:

Well actually, I have been to Washington. I have set down with Joe Allbaugh, the director of FEMA, but this is a man who votes to protect Monsanto and then takes money from them. This is a man who's asleep at the switch in Washington, who allows for non-stockpiled chemical weapons to be transferred today to Anniston, which if he had stood up and fought for the people in his district and fought for Alabama, it might not be the law today.

Alabama is a beautiful state. We need to protect it. Throughout my political career, I have fought to protect Alabama and I will continue to fight the big polluters and I will continue to fight to protect Alabama's natural beauty.