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Senate Candidates Spar Over 'Green' Issues 03:54
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Stephen Pagliuca gestures during an environmental forum in Boston on Tuesday between the Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate. (AP)
Stephen Pagliuca gestures during an environmental forum in Boston on Tuesday between the Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate. (AP)

Tuesday's environmental forum between the Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate didn’t light any fireworks. In fact when the moderator offered the candidates a chance to take a shot at each other and criticize anything an opponent has done, only Alan Khazei chimed in.

Khazei, who isn’t taking money from lobbyists or PACs, accused Martha Coakley of being beholden to special interests.

"Do you think the big oil industry lobbyists raising money will expect you to side with them or the citizens who want climate change?" Khazei asked Coakley.

"Alan, as attorney general I’ve always disclosed where the money comes from and I’ve always made my decisions based upon the merits of the issues," she responded.

Khazei said at the forum that he wouldn’t meet with any lobbyists, including ones from the Sierra Club. But later he issued a statement saying he would meet with lobbyists from the environmental group, because he’s open to hearing all views.

The forum looked at pressing environmental issues, including Cape Wind, which Sen. Ted Kennedy opposed.  All four candidates support the stalled project on Nantucket Sound, but they disagree on whether or not the government should be given the power to override local objections.

Michael Capuano said he wouldn’t take away local control because he believes in environmental justice.

"It always ends up that the worst items — whatever they may be, not just windmills — always end up in the poorest areas," he said. " They never end up in the wealthiest areas."

Khazei said he would fight to give the government more power to get Cape Wind moving. Stephen Pagliuca and Coakley both said local input is important but the process should be streamlined.

The candidates differ over the climate bill pending in the U.S. Senate, which has incentives for nuclear power and offshore oil drilling.

Pagliuca said he wouldn’t support it because of those subsidies. Coakley suggested she wouldn’t support it either because she questions the cost and safety of nuclear energy and is against drilling.

"No on offshore drilling," she said. "Mostly because of the environmental issues and we need to other ways to get those alternative fuels."

Capuno said he doesn’t support subsidies but his vote would depend on what else is in the climate bill.  Khazei said he would vote for it because he wants progress on climate change even though he is opposed to subsidizing offshore oil drilling and nuclear energy.

They all agreed the government should do more to promote and retain green jobs in Massachusetts.

Khazei suggested creating a clean energy institute in which the federal government would have a pool of money to invest in clean energy companies. Pagliuca wanted more subsidies for manufacturing.

"The reason these companies have to leave is because other countries have invested in their infrastructure and have gotten down the curve faster," he said. "We have not invested in clean tech at all as much as we should have."

The forum also touched on capping greenhouse gases, the environmental impact of destination casinos and seals. The candidates were all asked if they would support reducing federal protections for seals because their population has exploded and is interfering with commercial fishing.

"My daughter would never forgive me, I like seals, the answer is no," Khazei said.

"As someone who can’t kill a fly, I would have a hard time killing a seal," Pagliuca said. "Maybe we could bring sharks in."

Capuano said fisherman are an endangered species and seals aren’t, so he would consider legalizing culling. Coakley said it’s about balance and if the seal population is out of control, we need to figure out what’s causing that imbalance before we legalize killing seals.

This program aired on November 18, 2009.

Monica Brady-Myerov Twitter Reporter
Monica Brady-Myerov was formerly a report in WBUR's newsroom.

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