Tags: Greens | Fret: | Hoffa | Says | Kerry | Vows | 'Drill

Greens Fret: Hoffa Says Kerry Vows to 'Drill Like Never Before'

Wednesday, 25 February 2004 12:00 AM

Hoffa made the comments Feb. 17 during a segment on "Hardball" with Chris Matthews. Matthews had asked Hoffa why the union chose to endorse the U.S. senator even though Kerry opposed drilling for oil in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

"Well, we talked about that," Hoffa responded. "He says, look, I am against ANWR, but I am going to put that pipeline in, and we're going to drill like never before."

The union supports drilling in ANWR and the creation of a natural-gas pipeline that could stretch from Alaska to Chicago. Neither plan draws support from Kerry's environmentalist base, however.

When Matthews pressed Hoffa for details on the promises Kerry made, the Teamsters president offered a vague response.

"Well, they are going to drill all over, according to him," Hoffa said. "And he says, we're going to be drilling all over the United States. And he says that is going to create more jobs."

After the exit of Rep. Dick Gephardt of Missouri from the Democrats' presidential race, Kerry courted unions, including the Teamsters, to support his candidacy. He secured AFL-CIO's endorsement last week.

But Hoffa's comments have left Kerry's largest environmental backer confused about what the union chief meant by Kerry's intentions to "drill like never before."

Betsy Loyless, vice president for policy and lobbying at League of Conservation Voters, said she wasn't sure what Hoffa was talking about. She suggested asking the union, but three calls made by CNSNews.com on Monday and Tuesday weren't returned.

"We think there can be a balance between protecting the environment and growing the economy," Loyless said. "John Kerry knows ... promoting renewable and clean energy sources makes good sense."

When it comes to drilling in areas besides ANWR, Loyless said it was the Bush administration that wanted to tap into public lands, not Kerry.

"This administration is making many of the wrong choices," she said. "This administration has said oil and gas drilling are the primary uses for public lands. We know that John Kerry disagrees that oil and gas drilling are primary functions for public lands."

And as for the natural-gas pipeline, Loyless said most environmental groups, including League of Conservation Voters, remained neutral. The plan was first authorized in 1976 and is expected to cost up to $20 billion. The most contentious issue is what route the pipeline would take from Alaska's Prudhoe Bay to the lower 48 states.

When Kerry was asked about Hoffa's comments last Thursday by CNN anchor Judy Woodruff, he skirted the issue and instead talked about the pipeline.

"I think he ... I said exactly what my policy has been all my life. Which is I'm for the natural-gas pipeline. Absolutely. I voted for the natural-gas pipeline. I think it's important to build it. And so do most Americans," Kerry said.

"I'm also for the drilling in the 95 percent of the Alaska oil shelf that's up for leasing now," he added. "In fact, President Clinton put out the biggest lease in American history in that part of the shelf. I'm not for drilling in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge, and I haven't changed, and I won't change."

When Woodruff asked if there was a contradiction in that statement, Kerry replied, "Absolutely none whatsoever." She didn't ask him to clarify what Hoffa might have meant by "drilling all over the United States."

Hoffa's interview caught the attention of free-market advocates at Competitive Enterprise Institute. Myron Ebell, director of global warming and international environmental policy, said it would be out of character for Kerry to make such a guarantee to Hoffa given his track record on environmental issues.

"If the Teamsters are concerned about jobs, the only way Hoffa could justify it is if he took Kerry's words to mean that he would start drilling in a lot of places that are off-limits," Ebell said. "But I don't believe Kerry would ever concede that."

The more interesting question, Ebell said, is what Kerry could possibly offer the Teamsters that President Bush hasn't already put on the table. During the 2000 presidential campaign, Bush unsuccessfully courted Hoffa in hopes of winning his endorsement.

"[The Bush administration] is in favor of the pipeline," Ebell said. "They're in favor of ANWR, and they're in favor of opening up large areas of the Rocky Mountains to further gas exploration."

It's typical of unions to throw their weight behind one candidate for purely partisan reasons, said Justin Hakes, assistant director of legal information at National Right to Work Foundation.

"Big labor feels threatened by the Bush administration," he said. "There's so much discontent with him on the left that once the Democratic candidate is selected, you're going to see a massive effort put forth."

Ebell added, "It may be the old Bill Clinton routine of telling each person you're talking to exactly what they want to hear, and hoping it never catches up to you."

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Hoffa made the comments Feb. 17 during a segment on "Hardball" with Chris Matthews. Matthews had asked Hoffa why the union chose to endorse the U.S. senator even though Kerry opposed drilling for oil in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. "Well, we talked about that," Hoffa...
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Wednesday, 25 February 2004 12:00 AM
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