Richardson backs local shipyard
Democratic presidential hopeful Gov. Bill Richardson, D-N.M.,reacts to the start of a late spring snowstorm as he arrives at a campaign event at New England College in Henniker , N.H., Wednesday, April 4, 2007.(AP Photo/Jim Cole)

KITTERY, Maine -- Presidential candidate Bill Richardson made a pledge on Wednesday that could make him very popular on the Seacoast. Richardson said if he is elected the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard will always remain open and will never, on his watch, make the Base Realignment And Closure (BRAC) list.

In 2005 people here waited tensely to see if the shipyard, one of the area's largest employers, would be closed. It was not, but it could make a future closure list.

Richardson, the Democratic governor of New Mexico, toured the shipyard on Wednesday. Paul O'Connor, President of the Metal Trades Council, said the union is inviting presidential candidates whenever it meets with them.

"(Sen. Chris) Dodd has already been here," said O'Connor. He said Sen. Hillary Clinton, Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Joe Biden "have committed to coming. It gives them a chance to see what sets us apart."

"This facility is important for the security of this country, and I can't understand how it got on the BRAC list," said Richardson. "I was dismayed to find the Naval fleet has been reduced to 300 ships, which we will need in light of terrorist threats and the rise of China as a power. This place is a great national asset and we need to keep it."

Richardson said he was impressed with the shipyard, both for the good working relationship between the employees and management, and for its committment to safety."

Part of a peace contingent, Richardson will head to North Korea next week to try to facilitate the release of remains of U.S. servicemen. One of the people accompanying him is former Secretary of Veterans Affairs Anthony Principi, who served as chairman of the commission that removed the shipyard from the closure list.

Richardson said conserving energy and addressing global warming are important issues in his role as governor. New Mexico requires that ten percent of all energy come from renewable source. His goal is twenty percent. The state provides incentives for solar, wind, biofuels and other renewables. As energy secretary, Richardson said, he implemented tough efficiency standards that saved on energy costs.

"We need to reduce our 65 percent dependency on fossil fuels to 10 percent in the next 10 years," he said. "Reducing energy - things like installing renewable resources and retrofitting homes - also creates jobs."