Left-wingers have slammed Colorado Democratic Senate candidate John Hickenlooper for his record on environmental issues, the Colorado Sun reported Tuesday.
Often called "Frackenlooper" by his detractors, the former geologist and businessman has long promoted pro-business and development energy policies that put him at loggerheads with his party's increasingly environmentalist wing.
In a 2013 Senate hearing, Hickenlooper even drank fracking fluid as a political prop to promote the process, which his memoir applauds as "good … for our environment."
With pressure mounting from his left, Hickenlooper changed positions. He now says he opposes fracking in Colorado and hopes to make the method redundant by 2050.
The former Colorado governor's about-face and vagueness on the issue, however, have drawn fire from environmental activists.
Hickenlooper is "using buzz words but not really addressing the problem," said Anne Lee Foster of Safe and Healthy Colorado, a coalition of organizations that oppose drilling near communities. "He’s done very little to make fracking obsolete, and he’s done an enormous amount to support this destructive practice in Colorado."
Meanwhile, Hickenlooper’s opponent, Sen. Cory Gardner (R.), has advocated balancing job-creation with investment in sustainable energy. In recent weeks, Gardner joined a bipartisan effort to study and advocate for new carbon capture technologies, which have received $13 million in federal funding in Colorado alone.
Gardner has voiced concerns that Hickenlooper's unclear fracking views could cost constituents thousands of jobs.
"Gov. Hickenlooper has said he wants to make fracking obsolete, and in turn, put more than 230,000 Colorado workers out of a job," Gardner told the Colorado Sun. "Unlike John Hickenlooper, I am fighting for more jobs—not fewer. During an economic crisis, the last thing Coloradans want their leaders to do is to force mass layoffs and that is exactly what the Hickenlooper plan would do."
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has also had problems with clarifying his environmental positions. In Tuesday's debate he vociferously defended the Green New Deal—but also said he did not support the legislative package.
Like Hickenlooper, Biden has been unclear on fracking specifically. In August, he told voters he was "not banning fracking" despite his past statements supporting a ban. Days later, however, his vice-presidential nominee, Sen. Kamala Harris (D., Calif.), said that "there is no question" she supports a fracking ban.