Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Mississippi Sierra Club Director Louie Miller, 50, is nothing if not a pit fighter. He might smile for his pictures, but don't be fooled. Miller can be foul-mouthed and irascible, a product of conference-room shouting matches and broken-bottle, barroom-style fights in the hallways of the Mississippi State Capitol.
With more scars than Conan, the 1973 Murrah High School graduate has his share of political wins. He cut his teeth on the 1980s Shocco Dam brouhaha, when floodplain developers sought to bury Miller's fledgling blueberry farm under 40 feet of river water. After joining the Sierra Club as an employee in 1991 (he has been a member since 1980), the Shocco resident proved instrumental in preventing the state from becoming the nation's hazardous waste dump.
"You don't win environmental issues in Mississippi unless it's based on economics." Miller said.
Miller's work also aided in the battle to keep oil and gas drilling out of an offshore park mere miles from one of the most successful casino tourism industries in the nation.
"Had Barbour been successful in drilling a U.S.-designated wilderness, it would have been the first step in overturning the protections of the nation's park system," Miller said.
Gov. Haley Barbour had been one of the bigwigs sitting in on Vice President Dick Cheney's secret energy task force, and helped slip language into an Iraq War appropriations bill as well as a 2004 state legislative bill that paved the way for drilling in the national park.
Miller has a lot of enemies. Senate Appropriation Chair Tommy Robertson has said on more than one occasion that if he were faced with Miller and a rattlesnake, and had a gun with two bullets, he'd "shoot Miller twice to make sure he was dead."
Still, Miller is a consensus builder. Rather than being popular among the few with big money, he's popular among the many with none, and everyone in the Capitol knows it. (Even Robertson occasionally needs him.)
Miller has lately been more popular as Mississippi voters catch on that their cancer rate is increasing from pollution, and hunting grounds are shrinking every year.
"The big turnover for me was Tim Ford leaving (as House Speaker) and Billy McCoy getting elected, which put the dissidents—all these people who were the loyal opposition—suddenly in positions of leadership. It was a defining moment, getting Jamie Franks as (Conservation Committee) chairman, where before that son-of-a-bitch (Rep.) Jim Ellington tried to get me censored and removed from the Capitol during the hazardous waste fight," Miller said.
This sure is a bold statement: "Miller has lately been more popular as Mississippi voters catch on that their cancer rate is increasing from pollution, and hunting grounds are shrinking every year." Any science to back it up? Cancer rates may be increasing, but to attribute it to pollution is a bit of a stretch, don't you think? Since the era of Love Canal and Times Beach, environmental quality has actually been enhanced. Sure, we all know that Bush is in denial about "global warming", but that has more to do with CO2 emissions than exposure to carcinogens.