Op-Ed: Gardner Stays Silent on Trump’s Damaging Reversals to the Environment

Denver's brown cloud made a return last year.
Denver's brown cloud made a return last year.
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As the famous saying goes, “If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything.” When it comes to Colorado’s public lands and even the air we breathe, it’s not clear what Senator Cory Gardner stands for, but it’s increasingly obvious that he is not prioritizing its protection.

Part of what defines Colorado is its landscapes, from the Rocky Mountains to the Great Sand Dunes, to the South Platte River here in Denver. This is also what makes Colorado such a special place to live and raise a family. Gardner promised that he’d fight for Coloradans, but then went to Washington and largely ignored our environment and our families' basic needs for clean air and water. If Gardner gets his way, how much longer will we get to enjoy those great outdoor places?

A recent report in the New York Times revealed a full list of the nearly 100 environmental protection regulations that the Trump administration is overturning. This includes limits on pollution from power plants, protections for clean air and water, and regulations on vehicle emissions. The Trump administration has also used the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to tell the Environmental Protection Agency to stop enforcing protections of our public lands — all calamitous changes that Gardner has not lifted a finger to try to stop.

Gardner told Coloradans that he’d support renewable energy and protect our public lands, but he has repeatedly voted to block research and incentives for clean, renewable energy and supported increasing the number of leases for drilling on public lands. Gardner said he'd protect Colorado's air and water, but in Washington, he's overseen the dismantling and disarming of the EPA. This makes it harder for us to remedy the air pollution issues our communities face, and easier for corporations to pollute our families’ air and water without consequence.

Some parts of Colorado, including my district in Denver, have been dealing with poor air quality for decades. The American Lung Association's 2020 “State of the Air” report ranked Denver as the tenth-worst city in the nation for ozone pollution. In fact, recent studies have shown that poor air quality has been leading to higher rates and worse symptoms of coronavirus. We can no longer afford to let our poor air quality become a second thought.

Fortunately, state-level action has stepped up to fill the void. State regulators recently announced that they will be enforcing the pre-Trump EPA air standards. If Gardner listened to and understood his constituents, he would know Coloradans care about their environment and want to take actions to protect it.

As a state lawmaker, I understand that protecting our public lands, our air, and our water is also protecting our way of life. I hear it every day speaking to my constituents, and it’s helped drive my dedication to our shared environment. That’s why, over my career as a legislator, I’ve worked with my colleagues to introduce bipartisan bills that create a renewable natural gas standard to substantially reduce our methane emissions, require the collection of comprehensive greenhouse gas emissions data, support the transition to electric vehicles, and
give the Public Utilities Commission the authority to establish clean energy plans to accelerate the closure of uneconomic coal plants.

I ran for office because I was concerned about our lack of collective action in addressing climate change, and I’ve spent my career defending our state’s natural beauty and encouraging the development of new clean technology to help protect Colorado for future generations. It makes it all the more frustrating that Gardner has ignored the harmful rollbacks of EPA protections for our state.

Cory Gardner’s silence is acquiescence. It might help him with his standing inside Trump's inner circle, but it comes at our collective expense. We have a presidential administration that is actively waging war against our environment, and we have a U.S. Senator in Gardner who is doing nowhere near enough to stop President Trump from enabling pollution of our air and the public lands we cherish.

So it’s time we ask Cory Gardner, what exactly does he stand for? Because despite his assurances in 2014, it has not been for Colorado.

State Senator Chris Hansen represents Senate District 31, which includes Denver. He has worked in the environmental and energy space for more than 20 years, including working with renewable energy and electricity companies and teaching graduate classes on energy policy.

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