In Washington, Senator Cory Gardner votes with Donald Trump and against the environment an astounding 90 percent of the time. But when he’s running for office back here in Colorado, he pretends to be an environmentalist, even going as far as running an ad touting an endorsement from a fake environmental group created recently by one of his supporters, a legislative aide to an anti-environment state senator.
Colorado voters should not be fooled: Gardner’s voting record is a polluter’s dream and an environmental nightmare. As he scrambles from behind in his race against Governor John Hickenlooper, Gardner’s late-stage greenwashing can’t undo his terrible record on the environment. His lifetime score with the League of Conservation Voters is just 11 percent. You read that correctly—not 81 percent, not 71 percent, not 61 percent—but 11 percent. Voting against Colorado’s environment 9 times out of 10 is something to be embarrassed about, not brag about.
Underneath these dismal numbers, the picture does not improve. For example, as record heat, drought, and wildfires ravaged Colorado during his term, he’s been oil-slick slippery as to whether human–induced climate change even exists: “I don’t think you can say yes or no,” Gardner said in 2014. But a few years later, when it was time to run for reelection, Gardner finally said out loud what the scientific community has been saying for decades: the climate crisis is caused by human activity.
But he still won’t do anything about it. In fact, he’s voted with Trump to make the climate crisis even worse and give polluters a free pass to spew toxins into Colorado’s air and water.
Gardner has voted repeatedly to block the EPA from being able to regulate major climate change pollutants. He’s also voted to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling via the Trump tax cuts for corporations and the already wealthy. Gardner wouldn’t even go to bat for legislation passed in the U.S. House which would protect more of Colorado’s public lands. Colorado voters should ask themselves: If Cory Gardner is this much of a phony on the environment, what else is he lying about?
Governor Hickenlooper has a real record of action on clean energy and climate change in Colorado. As Governor, Hickenlooper brought industry groups and environmentalists together to make Colorado the first state to limit methane pollution from oil and gas wells. Colorado’s methane rules were estimated to cut the equivalent of 340,000 cars’ worth of greenhouse gas emissions and cut methane leaks by over half. In the wake of President Trump pulling the United States out of the Paris Agreement, Hickenlooper took action to commit Colorado to upholding those standards, issuing an executive order to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 26 percent, maximize renewable energy use, and increase electric vehicle use.
When Trump announced his repeal of the Clean Power Plan, Hickenlooper recommitted Colorado to its goals of reducing emissions. He also worked in tandem with my organization and the broader environmental community when he launched the Colorado Electric Vehicle Plan and oversaw the retirement of two coal plants that were replaced with wind and solar.
Beyond this solid record, Governor Hickenlooper set forth a vision for how he could lead on environmental issues in the Senate from the very start of his campaign. He has stated that he wants to bring “an unrelenting focus on combating climate change and growing our green economy to the U.S. Senate,” and has spoken out extensively on concrete actions to accelerate our transition to a clean and prosperous economy. For all these reasons, major environmental groups such as the LCV Action Fund, the Sierra Club, and the NRDC Action Fund have endorsed Hickenlooper’s senate campaign.
Here in Colorado, we care deeply about our environment. We know that clean air, clean water, and a solid snowpack sustain our health, our crops, our recreational economy and our way of life. In following Donald Trump’s polluter agenda, Cory Gardner threatens our state. His election-season concern for the environment is a sham, and it shows that even he knows his real record is a big problem for Colorado voters.
Governor Hickenlooper will be a real environmental leader in the U.S. Senate. Our choice this November could not be clearer.
Sam Gilchrist is the Western Campaigns Advisor for the NRDC Action Fund.