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Pawlenty, Sullivan debate environmental issues
By Marisa Helms
Minnesota Public Radio
April 30, 2002


Republican gubernatorial candidates Brian Sullivan and Tim Pawlenty both say they would protect Minnesota's legacy of caring and maintaining the environment. The candidates spoke at an environmental issues forum in Minneapolis. It was billed as a debate, but there was little disagreement between the candidates.

With few exceptions, Brian Sullivan, left, and Tim Pawlenty didn't stray far from what Sullivan referred to as "a mainstream conservationist legacy."
(MPR Photo/Marisa Helms)

About 50 people showed Brian Sullivan and House Majority Leader Tim Pawlenty.

With few exceptions, the candidates views didn't stray far from what Sullivan referred to as "a mainstream conservationist legacy."

Questions sought candidates views on issues including agriculture, transportation, and energy policy.

Both candidates said, if elected governor, they would support an initiative to constitutionally dedicate some sales tax revenue to the environment.

On the issue of transportation and gridlock, Sullivan said the state cannot neglect road building as part of the solution.

"Clogged roads equals pollution, and unless we do add capacity we're actually going to have an unintended consequence of having a higher level of pollution and smog in the state and none of us want that. And I think building roads is a very environmentally friendly approach for our community overall," Sullivan said.

Pawlenty said he encourages the production and use of hybrid electric cars and biofuel incentives.

On agricultural policy and how it pertains to the environment, Pawlenty called bio-engineering an exciting opportunity.

"We have enormously promising breakthroughs for the new types and strains of crops being developed in a way that will change the way the need for insecticides and pesticides and fertilizer that will fundamentally reshape this debate. So there's an exciting frontier in front of us, with respect to the environment that will be a huge opportunity, also a challenge, but a huge opportunity, and that's part of the vision for this area," Pawlenty said.

Sullivan took a different approach to the question. He spoke of the need to help the state's farmers succeed because they represent such a big part of the state's economy.

When the candidates were asked if Minnesota should obtain more land for public use, Sullivan said a better approach would be to not spread the state's assets too thin and maintain what the state already has. Pawlenty said the state needs to make sure the right kind of land is being preserved. He said public land that is not environmentally sensitive could be swapped for endangered land.

After the forum, Susan Solterman of the Audubon Society said she was not surprised by the candidate's responses, except for one.

"I might have been a little disconcerted that Rep. Pawlenty thinks that genetically modified grain is a good thing. I was surprised that he advocated that so openly here at a forum where conservationists and environmentalists in general don't necessarily support that," she said.

Steve DeLapp from Lake Elmo said he heard the candidates say they're willing to go with the status quo.

"They talked about maintaining what we've got a lot more than they talked about catching up to where we need to go. Whether it's nuclear fuel, coal burning plants, automobile efficiency, dependence on Middle East oil, which you could say it's a national issue, but if you go to California, they've got their own set of rules there, and a lot of states are starting to follow California on some of the issues," he said.

The same questions were asked of the DFL candidates last week, and next week, Green and Independence Party candidates will answer the league's questions.