Colorado Senator Says Candidates Who Oppose Fossil Fuels ‘Unfit’ For Office

“It’s irresponsible.”

CREDIT: AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta
CREDIT: AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

At the Colorado Oil and Gas Association meeting held in Denver last week, Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) — who has publicly supported Donald Trump for president — argued that some positions are so irresponsible that they should outright disqualify a candidate from holding either statewide or political office.

The offense? Supporting an end to fossil fuel production on federal lands.

“We have leaders who are saying irresponsible things, like we will have no more production on public lands,” Gardner said on Thursday. “It’s irresponsible, and I think anybody who refuses to reject statements like that are not fit for statewide office in Colorado and are not fit for federal office in Washington, D.C.”

Gardner’s comments come at a time when calls for a moratorium on fossil fuel production on federal lands have reached new heights. On Thursday, a group of environmental organizations filed a lawsuit in federal court, asking the court to freeze oil and gas leases on federal lands until a full study of climate impacts is completed.

The move is the latest in a series of actions by environmental groups, which have rallied around the concept of “Keep It In The Ground,” arguing that to avert the worst consequences of climate change, the majority of the world’s fossil fuels will need to remain untapped.

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, the primary target of Gardner’s remarks, has not explicitly voiced her support for a federal extraction ban; her campaign released a statement last week explicitly noting that Clinton has not come out in support of a ban on fossil fuel extraction on federal lands. Earlier this year, however, Clinton told a climate activist at a campaign rally that banning fossil fuel extraction on public lands was “a done deal.

Gardner’s comments also come on the heels of a new report issued last week by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy, which argued that a federal extraction ban would result in a loss of more than $11.3 billion per year in annual royalties and rental fees for federal and state governments, and around 380,000 jobs. The report, which was released at the same Colorado Oil and Gas Association meeting, found that in Colorado, a federal extraction ban would cost $124 million in state royalties, $8.3 billion in economic activity, and 50,000 jobs.

Despite running on a fairly moderate energy platform in 2014, Gardner has since established himself as a politician very sympathetic to fossil fuel interests. He has a lifetime score of just nine percent from the League of Conservation Voters, and has consistently voted against EPA regulations for greenhouse gases. Trump, who Gardner announced his support for just a few weeks ago, has pledged to do away with the EPA if elected president.