Sierra Club to educate voters

Members will explain presidential candidates’ stance on environmental issues.

Jason Juno

War, the economy and health care are some of the big issues in the presidential campaign.

Students in the Sierra Club said they are hoping to add the topic of environment to the list.

The North Star Chapter of the Sierra Club kicked off its Environmental Voter Education Campaign on Tuesday to educate voters about President George W. Bush’s and Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry’s policies on environmental issues.

University students are involved quite actively in the club, University student Erin Blower said.

“The environment is something I’m passionate about and something I feel other University of Minnesota students are passionate about,” Blower, a second-year law student, said.

Bernie Zaleha, vice president of the Sierra Club, said he came to Minnesota because “we know Minnesotans care about the environment as an electoral issue.”

Important environmental issues include water, air and toxic waste, Brian O’Malley, media coordinator for the club, said. He is in town from Washington.

Zaleha said the campaign is a national event, done in as many states as possible.

“(Voters) can make their own decisions,” Zaleha said.

“This is not an effort to tell anybody who to vote for,” O’Malley said.

Sierra Club members talked negatively about Bush’s environmental policies, while they talked positively about Kerry.

“That’s just the way it is,” Zaleha said. “There are stark differences between the candidates.”

Judy Helgen, a retired research scientist from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, said Bush’s policies leave Minnesota’s wetlands “at risk” because they are not well-protected.

Calls to the Minnesota Republican Party office were not immediately returned.

However, one of the brochures the North Star Chapter distributes details one of Bush’s accomplishments. He “requires cleaner diesel fuel and cleaner diesel engines for heavy equipment starting in 2010. The rule will help reduce soot and smog pollution,” according to the brochure.

Those who want to help with the campaign will be talking to people door to door, making calls and distributing pamphlets.