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Your Voice, Your Vote: Protecting Mother Nature

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RALEIGH — An environmentalist once wrote, "Air pollution is turning Mother Nature prematurely gray." Figuring out how to protect Mother Nature could turn the hair of our state's next governor gray. Where do the candidates stand on the environment and what gray areas stand between them?

Pointing the finger at polluters. Both men talk tough.

"I think that it is the role of the next governor of this state to point the finger," says Democratic candidate Mike Easley. "I think that the public will put up with but so much laissez faire attitude," he says.

"Don't slap them, punish them," says Republican candidate Richard Vinroot. "If you mess up and you endanger out people, then you're going to pay the price."

North Carolinians will pay the priceifcaught. The problem is, theN.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resourcessays it does not have enough inspectors to crack down on violators.

Both candidates say they would hire more inspectors if that is what it takes.

So far, Easley has worked on a plan to replace big hog lagoons.

"Clearly, the concentration of hogs and the lagoons in North Carolina is so high," says Easley.

But is it high? Are lagoons a problem?

"We've made it sound like the real problem in the state are the hog farmers when the truth is they are not to the degree that there are other polluters," says Vinroot.

Other polluters. Mike Easley want to cut power-plant emissions.

"Put some teeth in the environmental laws that we don't have now," says Easley.

But too many laws, Vinroot says, can hurt more than help.

"I will sound like a great environmentalist, but I will not have accomplished very much," says Vinroot.

It is a tricky balance: the economy, the environment, growth and good air. Politics often adds hot air. Voters can only hope the governor-to-be is not just blowing smoke.

For more on the candidates' positions on the environment, check out Tuesday's edition of the Raleigh News and Observer.