Voinovich targets EPA, energy policy

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WASHINGTON – Sen. George Voinovich dipped into and out of a meeting with Ohio Farm Bureau leaders at the U.S. Capitol last week, giving the visiting delegation more of a taste than a bite of his political agenda.

The meeting had been scheduled for something more like an hour than the 10 minutes he was actually there. Some of the delegation had barely gotten through the Capitol security system when it was over.

And the Senator’s abbreviated comments and somewhat abrupt exit left the Ohio delegation feeling a little hungry for more. The meeting had more the flavor of a campaign rally than the informational and lobbying session it had was supposed to be.

But Voinovich said what the farm leaders wanted to hear. He left them pleased if not satisfied.

Brownfield hearings.

Voinovich explained that he was supposed to be in three places at that same time, and said he had to get back to hearings that were being held on the issue of brownfield legislation.

To the approval and applause of his Farm Bureau audience, Voinovich emphasized the relationship of brownfield reclamation and farmland preservation, and then said he was working to get the measure passed through the Senate.

“But I need to be involved to making sure there are some changes made,” he said. “Right now it brings the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) in too soon. I think the states should be able to do what they can first, and then the EPA can get involved.”

Voinovich also indicated his support on one of the Farm Bureau’s key issues of concern, the repeal of estate taxes.

Farm Bureau issue.

The Farm Bureau is advocating the repeal of these “death taxes” in the interest of the preservation of the family farm, to allow farms to be passed down to the next generation rather than be sold off in order to pay taxes due on inheritance.

Voinovich said he knows his position in support of the estate taxes and tax relief in general is being labeled a turn-around on his part, but he feels that is not a fair characterization.

He said he came to Washington hoping to be able to do something about reducing the national debt.

“I was very concerned about the drunken spending down here,” he said.

Now that the federal government is acting with more fiscal responsibility, and the debt is actually being paid down much faster, he said, it is right to send money back down to the people who paid the taxes.

Some degree.

“I know we will get some degree of relief that will take care of most of your problems, Voinovich said. “It may not take care of Warren Buffett, and it may not take care of Bill Gates, but it will take care of you.”

Voinovich also said he was working on a method of get the $400 million that Ohio loses from Highway Trust funds by using a 40 percent bland of ethanol rather than EPA-approved oxygenate additives in most of its gasoline. And that he is pushing to get an ethanol plant built in Ohio.

But he stressed the need for a new comprehensive energy bill that addressed all alternative energy sources.

“We have got to have an energy policy that compromises environmental needs with energy needs,” Voinovich said. “We have never done that before. I am working to develop an energy policy that allows more nuclear power and more Ohio coal to be mined.”

Asked for input.

Voinovich said that agriculture is still the No. 1 industry in Ohio, and told the farm leaders he needed their input to keep track of the industry and to help him decide “what I ought to be doing in Ohio’s interest.”

And with that Voinovich, who had entered the room like a popular champion, surrounded immediately by a surge of greetings, by people wanting to shake his hand and say hello, turned around and left the room, like a man with places to go.

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