Democratic New Mexico Rep. and U.S. Senate candidate Martin Heinrich has distanced himself from his position on cap and trade, a move insiders and his opponent say is meant to temper criticism of his out-of-the-mainstream environmentalist agenda.
Heinrich voiced his unequivocal support for job-killing cap and trade energy regulations in 2009, calling the Waxman-Markey climate change bill "historic" and comparing the cap and trade program to the Apollo space project.
"This piece of legislation represents no less than a new Apollo project for American energy independence. … This legislation will transform our nation," Heinrich said in a June 26, 2009, press release on Waxman-Markey’s 219-212 passage in the House. The bill died in the Senate.
Heinrich also cited a 2009 EPA estimate to claim that cap and trade would "actually save families an average of $130 in utility costs per year by 2020," according to the Albuquerque Journal.
However, on August 8, Heinrich told the Hobbs News Sun—a local newspaper in the New Mexico "oil patch"—that cap and trade is "not feasible today."
Heinrich’s original claim that cap and trade would cut utility costs for ratepayers was false, according to former Republican Rep. and Heinrich’s U.S. Senate opponent Heather Wilson.
"At the time he voted for it, he knew it was going to be costly. Even President Obama admitted it was going to be costly," Wilson told the Free Beacon.
"He is an extremist when it comes to these kinds of green, environmental issues. That’s what he’s been his entire adult life. Now that he’s running for Senate, he’s trying to run away from his own agenda," Wilson said.
"He tries to be all things to all people," Rob Nikolewski, a reporter for New Mexico Watchdog, told the Free Beacon. "The Albuquerque district is centrist, split right down the middle, so both candidates—since they’re both from that district—are trained at walking that fine line."
"But the general consensus is that Heinrich is left-of-center. Most of his connections are conservation and ecological people. He gets a lot of money from conservation groups. If you go out to Santa Fe, which is like Berkeley with mountains, you see a lot of Heinrich stickers," Nikolewski said.
The League of Conservation Voters is Heinrich’s top campaign contributor this election cycle, having donated $78,985. Heinrich has received $105,840 in total contributions from the green lobby. The Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters pledged $2 million on a negative advertising campaign targeting Wilson.
The Waxman-Markey bill would have forced electricity providers to pay for "increased efficiency" and technologies to capture carbon emissions, thus increasing the cost of energy for consumers. The bill reportedly would have caused the U.S. to lose 2.5 percent of its GDP per year.
"Cap and trade is a big tax on energy," Wilson said. "The whole intention [of Waxman-Markey] was to put a tax on coal, oil, and natural gas so people would use less of it. We are an energy-producing state, and that would have killed more than 11,000 jobs here in New Mexico. It would have increased energy bills by more than $1,000 a year."
Waxman-Markey was blamed for a large number of the U.S. House losses Democrats suffered in 2010, according to the New York Times.
Wilson campaign advertisements and press releases have harshly criticized Heinrich for placing his "extremist agenda" ahead of New Mexico’s economic growth.
Heinrich has long been a proponent of renewable energy options to limit the use of oil and natural gas. In June 2009, he introduced the failed Clean Energy Promotion Act to help fund new wind and solar energy projects.
In April 2011, Heinrich spoke on the House floor to oppose a Republican legislative effort to limit the EPA’s authority in regulating greenhouse gas emissions. The proposed legislation "destroys the EPA’s ability to limit air pollution under the Clean Air Act," according to Heinrich’s remarks.
"He spoke of ‘scientific consensus’" on the climate change issue in his House floor remarks, Wilson pointed out to the Free Beacon. "And that was only in April 2011."
The Heinrich campaign did not return a request for comment.