DENVER — Rep. Cory Gardner upped the ante in the Senate race Tuesday by challenging Sen. Mark Udall to disavow any statewide initiative aimed at banning hydraulic fracturing.
“Senator Udall’s refusal to oppose a ban on hydraulic fracturing has put nearly 100,000 Colorado jobs at risk of being completely eliminated,” said Gardner in a statement. “Senator Udall cannot look Coloradans in the eye and tell them that he honestly cares about creating jobs. He doesn’t.”
Gardner is the frontrunner for the Republican Senate nomination to run against the Democrat Udall, who’s seeking a second term.
The challenge places Udall, a staunch environmentalist, in a particularly tricky political bind. Supporting the proposed statewide fracking measures would make him vulnerable to charges of being a jobs-killer, given last week’s University of Colorado report showing that a ban would cost 93,000 jobs and $12 billion by 2040.
On the other hand, opposing the proposed fracking bans would hurt Udall with his liberal base, especially his core supporters in the environmental movement who take a dim view of oil-and-gas development.
“Colorado is at risk of losing tens of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in revenue, and our most senior elected official refuses to fight for Coloradans,” said Gardner, whose statement was issued on Twitter by spokesman Alex Siciliano.
Udall’s office did not comment immediately Tuesday on Gardner’s challenge, but the Democratic senator has been sympathetic to the arguments of fracking foes as well as supportive of natural gas.
“As a cleaner burning fuel, natural gas is part of the solution to reducing our nation’s air pollution, and has helped to bring our country’s carbon emissions down to levels we haven’t seen since the early 1990s,” said Udall in a statement on his Senate website. “But I also understand the concerns that many Coloradans have voiced to me about hydraulic fracturing. As Coloradans, we want our country to be energy independent, but we don’t want to sacrifice our land, water and air.”
A half-dozen proposed initiatives are awaiting final state approval to start collecting signatures for the Nov. 4 ballot. The Colorado Community Rights Network is sponsoring an initiative that would allow communities to ban corporate activity, including oil and gas exploration, within their borders.
Local Control Colorado is behind another initiative to permit communities to prohibit oil and gas development. Others are pushing measures that would mandate setbacks from fracking activity and occupied buildings such as homes and schools.
Two state Republican lawmakers, Reps. Frank McNulty and Jerry Sonnenberg, have countered with a proposed initiative that would cut off severance-tax revenue from oil-and-gas development to towns and counties that ban fracking.