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He favors long-term timber-payments solution

Medford Mail-Tribune, March 23, 2008

The following are highlights of an interview with Barack Obama by Gary Nelson, Mail Tribune editorial page editor:

Q: You mentioned timber payments to counties in passing in your speech. Do you support those payments?

A: What I'd like to do is convene meetings between federal agencies, local and state governments and interested parties, and start hammering out a long-term solution that acknowledges the revenue issues that are at stake for local governments and preserves the natural resources that are so important to Oregon.

Q: Do you think it's possible to get to a long-term solution?

A: I always believe there's the possibility of getting to a long-term solution. It just takes work. And it takes listening. And the federal government being an honest broker in the process.

Q: One of the issues that is getting a lot of attention in Oregon right now is liquefied natural gas terminals. The Bush administration has decided that energy supply is a national security issue, and therefore has given FEMA the power to decide whether Oregon gets liquefied natural gas terminals.

A: I'm not big on that theory. LNG is a transitional technology or resource. And we can't ignore our genuine energy needs. On the other hand, to completely circumvent state authority on this issue I think is a mistake.

I think it's important for the federal government to work with state governments, and to recognize that over the long-term, liquefied natural gas is not going to be the answer to our energy problems. What we need to do is to find other energy sources than fossil fuels.

Q: Do you think LNG is worth pursuing on a temporary basis?

A: I think it comes down to the economics and the safety issues. Sometimes safety concerns can be overstated. And I don't want to pretend at this stage that I have reviewed all of the science as I just said in the town hall meeting what I want this to be driven by is science, and if somebody can persuade me that liquefied natural gas can be used safely, and is not a significant terrorist target, and does not expose the surrounding communities to enormous threats, does not degrade the environment, and, having met all those criteria, is still economical to use, then obviously this is something that I would be open to.

But I think that if you don't factor in any of those potential hazards, then you're not making a good decision.

Q: A couple of other issues of interest to Oregonians involve initiatives passed by the voters that have come into conflict with the federal government: physician-assisted suicide and medical marijuana. Do you support those two concepts?

A: I am in favor of palliative medicine in circumstances where someone is terminally ill. ... I'm mindful of the legitimate interests of states to prevent a slide from palliative treatments into euthanasia. On the other hand, I think that the people of Oregon did a service for the country in recognizing that as the population gets older we've got to think about issues of end-of-life care. ...

As for medical marijuana ... I'm not familiar with all the details of the initiative that was passed, but I think the basic concept of using medical marijuana for the same purposes and with the same controls as other drugs prescribed by doctors, I think that's entirely appropriate. ...

I'm not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue.

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