Udall Votes Against Keystone for Fourth Time

Environmentalist billionaire Tom Steyer backing Udall

Sen. Mark Udall, (D., Colo.) / AP
June 19, 2014

Sen. Mark Udall (D., Colo.) voted against the Keystone XL pipeline for the fourth time on Wednesday, pleading for more time for the project that has been delayed for over five years.

Udall, who is currently facing a tough reelection fight from Republican challenger Cory Gardner, said he voted against a bill that would have fast-tracked the TransCanada project because it needs a "full review."

The bill passed by a 12-10 vote in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, with Udall joining nine other Democrats in opposing the measure. The bill, brought by Sen. Mary Landrieu (D., La.), who is facing a daunting reelection battle as well, will likely stall, since Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) will not allow the bill to reach the Senate floor.

"Sen. Udall believes that the Keystone XL pipeline has been politicized by both sides of the aisle," Mike Saccone told the Denver Post, adding that the senator is "frustrated" by the years-long process, but that Udall wants to "see the process run its course," according to the Denver Post.

"If this pipeline were being routed through Colorado, my constituents would want to know that science—and not politics—determined the way forward," Udall said in a statement.

The vote marked the fourth time Udall has opposed the pipeline, which is supported by 66 percent of Coloradans. He previously was opposed to an amendment that would have bypassed the administration to approve the project.

GOP critics and Gardner slammed Udall for his vote on Wednesday.

"Less than a week after claiming he was ‘frustrated’ by the delay of a project that will create jobs and lower the cost of energy, Senator Udall is again refusing to lead in the Senate," Gardner’s campaign spokesman Alex Siciliano said prior to the vote.

"Mark Udall voted against the wishes of two-thirds of Coloradans today when he cast his vote against the Keystone Pipeline," said Colorado Senate Minority Leader Bill Cadman (R.). "Senator Udall is so extreme on this issue that even former President Bill Clinton disagrees with his position."

Udall declined to sign onto a letter penned by Senate Democrats urging President Barack Obama to approve Keystone on April 10. The Obama administration announced a week later that they again would delay making a decision on the pipeline until after the midterm elections.

Republicans have criticized Udall for his positions on environmental issues, arguing his views are tied to the support he’s received from environmentalist billionaire Tom Steyer. Udall has called for overturning the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling, and denounced billionaire philanthropists Charles and David Koch as trying to "buy the U.S. Senate" for the Tea Party.

However, Udall attended a fundraiser in February hosted by Steyer, who has pledged to spend $100 million in this year’s midterm elections. Among Steyer’s targets is Gardner, who his Super PAC has branded a climate "denier."

The Gardner campaign said Udall is in Steyer’s pocket.

"Senator Udall has continually given excuses while failing to explain why he refuses to stand against a fracking ban on the ballot in November and continues to oppose Keystone XL," Siciliano, Gardner’s campaign spokesman, said in May. "If there was any doubt as to why, Steyer’s extreme views and millions of dollars to help Senator Udall provide a clear explanation."

Udall is also receiving support from the environmentalist group League of Conservation Voters (LCV), which opposes Keystone. The senator has received $36,906 from the group so far in 2014, the fourth highest recipient from the group behind his cousin Sen. Tom Udall (D., N.M.).

LCV spent $15 million aiding Democratic candidates in 2012, and is spending $1 million on anti-Gardner ads this cycle.

The Udall campaign sent out urgent fundraising emails last week.

Citing a National Mining Association poll on June 12 that has Gardner leading Udall 47 percent to 45 percent, Udall’s campaign begged for cash.

"With the ever-important June 30 FEC deadline approaching, Congressman Gardner will use this poll to show his supporters he can win this U.S. Senate race," the email said.

"The Koch brothers, Karl Rove, and other special interest groups have funded nearly $5 million dollars against me in attack ads meant to distort and smear my record," the email added. "And it’s beginning to show in the polls."

On Friday, a second email’s subject line read, "NEW POLL: We're down."

"Every single poll since Congressman Gardner entered the race in February shows Mark and him running neck and neck — a statistical tie," the email read. "But we can't let him gain the momentum now."