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CHEYENNE - A balance needs to be struck between protecting Wyoming's environment from being destroyed by energy development and extracting its natural resources to wean the country off foreign oil, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Dale Groutage said.

"There are areas that need to be protected for not only our generation but for generations to come," Groutage said this week in an interview with The Associated Press. "But we have to do this because we have so many resources here, natural energy resources, and we have the opportunity to help our nation in a national security issue."

Groutage, a retired government engineer from Lander, is making his first run for public office by seeking the seat now held by Republican Craig Thomas.

Groutage said U.S. dependence on foreign oil is a national security issue because much of the oil is located in the politically volatile Middle East.

The vast U.S. coal reserves, especially in Wyoming, could be tapped to increase domestic production of diesel, gasoline and natural gas, he said. As a result, the country would no longer be held hostage to foreign oil manipulations and Wyoming would be enriched by greater production of its resources, Groutage said.

At the same time, the energy development in Wyoming must be done on a case-by-case basis and responsibly "so that we preserve what we got," he said.

New drilling techniques that lessen impacts to the environment could be developed and used in sensitive areas, such as forests, he said.

"If there were just a massive amount of energy down there that they could get out without destroying it, I think that needs to be looked at," Groutage said. "But going in and destroying the forest … with roads and doing it blindly. I don't believe that. No."

On other issues, Groutage said he supports stem cell research as long as no human life was risked, opposes abortion except in the case of rape, incest or if the health of the mother is at stake, and favors federal subsidies to make health care more affordable but not to the point that it would create a nationalized health care system.

"I do believe in a health care program similar to what the employees of the federal government have, where there is an opportunity to buy into a health care program, if you elect to, and then select the type of coverage you would want," he said.

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Groutage also broached the idea of expanding the mission of F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne to include a new intelligence component that would oversee U.S. border and coastline security surveillance.

"It would be … another mission for this base here that would be important to national security, important for the state of Wyoming, important for Cheyenne," he said.

The additional mission would help protect the Cheyenne base, which oversees about 150 Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles, from any future military base closings, he said.

Groutage designed ships, missiles and submarines for 34 years before retiring in 2002.

He said if he is elected Nov. 7 he would seek to be appointed to Senate committees on energy and armed services.

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