Udall taking part in Senate’s climate change all-nighter

Colorado Sen. Mark Udall, a Democrat, faces reelection in November.

Colorado Sen. Mark Udall, a Democrat, faces reelection in November.

DENVER — Colorado Sen. Mark Udall will be among some 28 Democratic senators pulling an all-nighter Monday to focus attention on climate change.

But those lawmakers won’t be pushing for the passage of any specific piece of legislation.

The talk-fest is just aimed at raising public awareness about the issue — and, for Udall, at drawing a clear contrast from Congressman Cory Gardner, the Republican up-and-comer who announced his campaign for Udall’s seat less than two weeks ago.

While most vulnerable Democrats facing reelection this fall aren’t participating, Udall actually has something to gain by taking part: resources.

California hedge fund billionaire and climate change activist Tom Steyer is planning to spend $100 million to make climate change an issue in the 2014 mid-term elections; Udall, who attended a fundraiser last month at Steyer’s San Francisco home, is sure to be a main beneficiary.

“I think particularly in mid-March, both sides are spending a lot of time appealing to their base,” said political analyst Eric Sondermann. “For Udall, this is his voting base: the liberal, green Democratic base that wants action on this issue, and a fundraising base with Tom Steyer.

“This is going to be a record-setting campaign in terms of expenditures, and this is an opportunity for Udall to lock up a lot of that money.”

Unlike Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu, perhaps the strongest Democratic supporter of the oil and gas industry whose elevation to chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources will help her reelection effort in a solidly red state, Udall stands to gain politically in Colorado, a more progressive state that prizes its natural resources, by going the other way.

“The harm this will do to Udall is non-existent,” Sondermann said. “People on the other side of this issue aren’t voting for him anyways. And it gives him a chance to change the subject. For incumbent Democrats, any day not spent talking about Obamacare is a good day.”

An avid mountain climber whose wife, Maggie Fox, is a former Sierra Club president, Udall has been a strong supporter of renewable energy in Congress, sponsoring a Production Tax Credit for wind energy providers.

Last year, he voted against budget resolution amendments to start work on the Keystone XL pipeline in a non-binding resolution; his office notes, he’s open to voting to approve the project overall, but didn’t want to inject politics into the budget review process.

“From communities along Colorado’s rivers to our mountain ski resorts, climate change is one of the most pressing challenges facing the Centennial State and our special way of life,” said Udall in a statement to FOX31 Denver. “The negative effects of rapid climate change are undeniable — turning our forests into tinder and contributing to one of the most severe droughts on record. Now is the time for Congress to come together and develop a bipartisan road map to confront this problem, which is why I’m helping lead this push on the Senate floor. Inaction simply is not an option.”

Gardner, who sits on the House Energy Committee, is a strong supporter of the industry who has criticized Democrats for opposing the Keystone XL project.

“How strange that Senator Udall serves in the majority party that controls which bills come to a vote in the Senate, but instead of actually legislating, he believes his time is best used giving a speech,” said Gardner’s campaign spokesman, Alex Siciliano. “This whole stunt is indicative of how the chamber has run since Senator Udall has served in the majority – politics and speeches are preferred to actually introducing bills and being accountable for votes.

“Colorado needs leadership not speeches. Only someone who has been in Washington too long would believe a speech is a solution.”

Last week, Udall and Gardner offered competing proposals related to natural gas exports, an issue of sudden importance given the rising tensions in Ukraine, in one of the opening salvos of the fall campaign.

The only serious legislative push to address climate change, a cap-and-trade bill proposing major businesses pay a price on carbon dioxide emissions, died in 2010 after passing the House only to die in the Senate.