Colo. Democrat Says Keystone XL ‘Did Nothing To Build The Environmental Movement’
Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) used a recent town hall appearance in his home state of Colorado to criticize “Keep It in the Ground” activists and their campaign against the Keystone XL pipeline, disagreeing with their positions on domestic energy development.
“My objection to it is that it did nothing to build the environmental movement,” the Democrat said Friday about opposition to the oil pipeline during the town hall in Boulder. “It did nothing to persuade people that didn’t agree with us that climate was something really important.”
Bennet argued against making the Keystone XL pipeline approval a litmus test on climate change and environmental issues.
“A decision was made to make that the symbol for whether you supported climate, whether you believed in climate change, or whether you were an environmentalist,” he said. “That was the choice that was made. And it was a choice that was made because people said, ‘We can’t see CO2 [carbon dioxide emissions], we have to make it something people can see.’”
The pipeline is proposed to move crude oil from Canada to Nebraska, where it would connect with existing pipelines. The Obama administration blocked the pipeline in 2015, but President Donald Trump overturned that decision this year, breathing new life into the project.
Bennet, who voted in support of Keystone XL in 2014, told the packed Boulder meeting that the project is “where I’ve taken my most serious beating in the County of Boulder,” but listed a number of votes where he supported Congressional action directed at climate change, including the defense of Obama’s Clean Power Plan and the defeat of a resolution last week aimed at rescinding a venting and flaring rule targeting oil and natural gas production on federal lands.
Bennet was responding to a question from a member of the audience, who wondered: “How do we get progressives like you, who seem to be on the same page on other issues, to work with us on this pressing issue? How do we get you to stand with communities?”
Bennet explained how his position on Keystone XL differed with anti-fossil fuel activists.
“There are people who would say, ‘we should have no fracking. Period.’ And I think that’s a principled position,” he said. “But it’s not my position, because I’ve seen the effect of what $2.30 natural gas means to the generation of electricity in this country, and what it’s done to displace coal-fired power plants.”
In August, Republican Sen. Cory Gardner (Colo.) told the Colorado Oil and Gas Association’s Rocky Mountain Energy Summit that any attempt to end natural resource development was irresponsible.
“And it’s a risk because we have leaders who are saying irresponsible things like, ‘We will have no more production on public lands,’” he said. “It’s irresponsible and I think anybody who refuses to reject statements like that are not fit for statewide office in Colorado or not fit for federal office in Washington, D.C.”
A November 2016 report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy projected that banning hydraulic fracturing would result in nearly 15 million fewer jobs across the country and double the price of gasoline and electricity by 2022. For the average household that would mean an added $4,000 in cost-of-living expenses each year.
Bennet explained his decision on the pipeline as non-emotional.
“I will say that I was guided by the facts. And guided by the science,” he said. “And that when it was really inconvenient for me, and it was, I can tell you, to take the position I did on that pipeline, that I am able to say the reason I did it was because I was guided by what I thought the facts were.”
“But I don’t think that makes me a sellout on climate,” he said. “I refuse to accept it. I don’t accept it.”
Bennet ended with a call to action.
“And I think you should keep advocating your position and I should keep advocating my position as well,” he said.