Thursday, March 11, 2010

GOP Gov. Candidate Will Rollback Environmental Laws for Railroad

California Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman said Tuesday that if elected she would roll back clean-air and other environmental-quality regulations to allow Union Pacific railroad to expand its port facilities.

She made the comments during a Tuesday campaign event where she toured the Union Pacific intermodal rail facility at the Port of Oakland and met with UP officials. UP, a campaign contributor to Whitman, has long sought to increase the size of rail facilities at several ports in the state, including Oakland and Long Beach/Los Angeles. 

Labeled as an open press event by Whitman's campaign, attending press members found themselves barred from riding along on the candidate's 2-hour tour of the facility and restricted to a holding room. 

Following the tour, Whitman confined her comments to a five-minute conversation with a UP spokesperson in front of reporters.

In addition to her comments about environmental laws, Whitman expressed amazement at the amount of freight being moved through the UP facility.

At end of the exchange, Whitman's staff informed reporters that Whitman would take no questions due to a lack of time before escorting the media from the room. Whitman remained behind to speak with self-described San Francisco Chronicle conservative columnist Debra Saunders for another 30 minutes.

Whitman, who left following the interview through a back entrance of the facility, later called a local TV station to apologize, saying the press portion of the event did not work out as she had hoped.