Then-Democratic presidential candidate and now Sen. John Hickenlooper delivers a campaign speech at the Des Moines Register Political Soapbox at the Iowa State Fair on Aug. 10, 2019, in Des Moines, Iowa. Hickenlooper is the Democratic candidate for U.S. senator in Colorado. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Climate advocates consider former Gov. John Hickenlooper to have a less-than-perfect record on the environment. That didn’t stop the Colorado Chapter of the Sierra Club from endorsing the Democrat for U.S. Senate over incumbent Republican Sen. Cory Gardner.
“Colorado deserves a Senator who will prioritize public lands and conservation from day one, not just when it is politically convenient,” Chapter Director Emily Gedeon said in an Aug. 3 statement. “Our 100,000 members and supporters across Colorado look forward to having a representative in the Senate who we can work with to build a strong, inclusive clean energy economy and who will speak up for key environmental protections.”
Gardner, Hickenlooper’s opponent, recently succeeded in spearheading passage of the Great American Outdoors Act, which President Donald Trump is expected to sign any day. That bill fully and permanently funded the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which uses offshore oil and gas royalties to protect waterways, forests and wildlife habitat. It also provides up to $9.5 billion to support deferred maintenance projects on public lands.
Hickenlooper’s platform on public lands includes addressing the maintenance backlog and fully funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund. It also opposes selling off federal lands — Hickenlooper says he will “fight any efforts to diminish the scope and quality of our land, water, and outdoor resources” — and promotes investing in “innovative projects that increase access to and equity in the outdoors” for low-income people and communities of color.
“I’m proud to have the Sierra Club’s support in this race and look forward to working with them again, as Senator, to take on climate change and fight for our public lands,” Hickenlooper said in the statement.
Hickenlooper has criticized Gardner’s lack of support for the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Economy Act, or CORE Act, which would would create about 73,000 acres of new wilderness areas, preserve nearly 80,000 acres for outdoor recreation, expand access to existing protected lands and prohibit new oil and gas development in some areas. Democratic Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet tried to include the CORE Act as an amendment to Gardner’s bill.
But Gardner told the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel that previous Interior Department secretaries who wrote to congressional leaders in support of the Great American Outdoors Act had called for its passage without amendments, in order to preserve the bill’s chances of passing the Republican-controlled Senate.
Meanwhile, Hickenlooper has received some scrutiny for accepting corporate donations from the oil and gas industry as governor. Anadarko Petroleum and Noble Energy gave at least $325,000 to Hickenlooper’s office during his second term alone to fund initiatives and positions, according to a June analysis of state records conducted by The Colorado Sun and CBS4 Denver, though the Sun “found no evidence that the donations were connected to official action taken by Hickenlooper’s administration.”
In 2018, he requested a delay to bring the northern Front Range into compliance with air quality standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency. That delay request was later withdrawn by current Gov. Jared Polis.
Hickenlooper also opposed efforts to make maps of buried gas pipelines available to the public after the deadly Firestone explosion in 2017, which was connected to Anadarko. He said industry officials were concerned that such a map could lead to people illegally tapping pipelines to siphon off gas, the Denver Post reported at the time.
His campaign website promotes a 100% renewable economy with net-zero emissions by 2050 and says he will fight to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement as a U.S. senator. The international accord set targets for countries to reduce emissions in order to prevent a global rise in temperature of more than 2 degrees Celsius.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify the nature of corporate donations made to the governor’s office.
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