CUMBERLAND — U.S Sen. Ben Cardin covered a lot of ground in a wide-ranging interview with the Times-News on Friday afternoon. He discussed matters ranging from natural gas drilling in?Marcellus shale to the challenge posed by?Iran.
The following are some of the highlights of the interview. Cardin is a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works, Foreign Relations, Finance, Budget, Small Business and Entrepreneurship, and Security and Cooperation in Europe committees.
“I think we can do fracking … we should do it the right way,” Cardin said. That being said, Cardin supports Gov. Martin O’Malley’s moratorium on drilling in Maryland. Fracking is a process by which chemicals are pumped into the ground to free the gas trapped in Marcellus shale.
“I’ve tried to convince the industry they’d be better off with national standards than fight state-by-state,” Cardin said. Each state is using different standards.
“My point is I think we can develop the right practices.” Cardin said the country needs the natural gas trapped in?Marcellus shale. ”The process is well-known and the risk factors are well-known,” Cardin said. The senator generally scores high marks from environmental groups for his voting record.
He also called for industry transparency. “We should know what they are using” as fracking fluids, Cardin said. The best way to prevent pollution from the fluids is to require recycling of fracking fluids. Recycling would minimize the risk to clean water, the senator said.
Chesapeake cleanup and farmers
The problems in the Chesapeake Bay are not only the quality of the water, but the ecological system, Cardin said. Unfortunately, farming is the major source of bay pollution, he said, and the largest growing source of pollution is storm water runoff.
“Many, many farmers are doing extraordinary things to protect the bay,” Cardin said.
“Our program should be based on the best science.”
Farm groups have been particularly concerned with the possible effects of bay cleanup efforts. The Maryland Farm Bureau believes farmers are being targeted unfairly by environmentalists.
“We oppose regulations that put farmers who live in the Chesapeake Bay watershed at a competitive disadvantage,” the Maryland Farm Bureau’s 2012 policy statement states. The Farm Bureau believes the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is using a flawed model for setting pollution standards. Cardin said he’s relying on the scientists.
“The model that’s being used is the model they think is right,” Cardin said. The most serious challenge to the bay in the area of farming is the poultry industry, Cardin said. Cardin said he won’t be deterred from doing everything possible to clean up the bay.
“I?think we need to do a more effective job. I don’t think we’re doing enough,” he said. Cardin thinks the Farm Bureau will work with legislators interested in a nutrient trading program, which would pay farmers to reduce their use of fertilizers and reducing runoff from their farms. It’s much cheaper to pay farmers at the source of the pollution than get nitrogen out of the water system, he said.
“Nutrient trading is a winner for farmers,” Cardin said.
The Occupy movement
“There’s a void and it was filled by Occupy Wall Street. It was sheer frustration,” Cardin said. He’s not sure whether the Occupy movement will have a long-term effect, because the movement’s political aims aren’t clear and there seems to be no interest in electing people to office.
“It’s not like the Tea Party. In many respects, it’s much broader than the Tea Party,” he said, since it includes libertarians and communitarians, he said. “The Tea Party is focused,” Cardin said, and therefore probably has more impact on policy than the Occupy movement.
The movement is a “comfort level for people to express anger and frustration,” Cardin said.
President Barack Obama is taking the right approach on Iran, Cardin said. “We need to isolate Iran as much as possible and support … enforcing sanctions,” Cardin said. Iran is widely believed to be trying to build a nuclear weapon and is under a variety of international sanctions for refusing to allow inspections of nuclear sites in the country.
“The question is, what are your options?”
The sanctions are having a major impact and there is at least a possibility the Iranian people will stand up and overthrow their government. Cardin said he had no confidential information, but that it seemed likely the U.S. and other allies had made cyber attacks on Iran. Those actions have slowed their nuclear program, Cardin said.
“We’re taking the steps we should be taking,” the senator said. And keeping the support of the international community is key to effective action against Iran’s government. There are only a few truly dangerous countries in the world, and Iran is one of them, along with North Korea and Pakistan, Cardin said.
“They can’t do it without us, but it’s gotta be international,” he said.
Changes need to be made to the presidential nominating process, Cardin said.
“The nominating process is so difficult. … It does not attract the people most qualified to be president,” he said. Cardin didn’t discuss details, but said the process is deeply flawed. On the state level, the senator said he thinks a Democrat will likely win the 6th Congressional District seat currently held by Republican Roscoe Bartlett.
“The numbers look like they give the Democrats the edge,” Cardin said. A redistricting map added large numbers of Democrat voters from the metro area late last year. Cardin is up for re-election himself. Eight Democrats and 10 Republicans have filed for the seat. Cardin will be seeking his second term. He spent 20 years in the U.S. House of Representatives and more than 20 years in the Maryland House of Delegates.
His wife, Myrna, said there’s a big difference between being a member of the House and being a U.S.?senator. The transition from a small geographic area to the statewide office meant “you don’t get everywhere as often,” Myrna Cardin said. She said she prefers to stay in the background and was looking forward to a rare family weekend once her husband finished his Western?Maryland tour.