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Opinion: Cory Gardner has failed to deliver on his promise to be “a new kind of Republican”

It’s no secret why Coloradans choose to call this amazing state home. They love our one-of-a-kind natural treasures, boundless recreation opportunities and outdoor heritage. And they deserve leaders who prioritize these values.

Unfortunately for Coloradans, Sen. Cory Gardner has not been one of those leaders.

During his four years in office, Sen. Gardner has voted against the environment more than 85% of the time and in line with President Donald Trump 91% of the time.

Kelly Nordini

These votes run contrary to what we heard from Sen. Gardner in 2014, when he posed in front of wind turbines and promised to be a champion for our environment. In his official capacity, Sen. Gardner has fallen short of that promise.

Sen. Gardner is out of step with Coloradans, despite what he might claim in old campaign commercials and his media narrative. These failures have real and negative impacts on the state we love.

Take the issue of climate change, which is a threat to our Colorado way of life. Rather than supporting a clean energy future, Sen. Gardner voted five times to block limits on carbon pollution, seven times to protect billions in subsidies for fossil fuel corporations, seven times to undermine scientific reviews, and ten times to make it harder to establish or enforce environmental protections.

At a time when there is broad consensus around both the problem and solution to climate change — cutting carbon pollution — Sen. Gardner’s actions take us in the wrong direction.

Nearly two-thirds of Coloradans consider climate change a serious problem and support our transition to a cleaner economy. But instead of leading on these issues, Sen. Gardner has voted against them.

READ: Colorado Sun opinion columnists.

A telling example was his vote to permanently end the Methane and Waste Prevention Rule. More commonly known as the “BLM methane rule,” this common-sense standard requires oil and gas companies to limit unnecessary methane pollution — a potent contributor to climate change — from venting, flaring and leaks.

This vote also put Sen. Gardner on the wrong side of Colorado opinion on an issue where he claims to be strongest: public lands.

More than 70 percent of Coloradans want their leaders to emphasize land and water protections over energy production on public lands. But instead of protecting the places we love, Sen. Gardner voted to cut Coloradans out of discussions over where and how drilling on our public lands occurs.

In fact, he supported prioritizing drilling on public lands without local input, permanently eliminating rules intended to include communities and the public in oil leasing decisions, and fast-tracking pipeline construction across public lands by circumventing environmental reviews.

And there is one glaring oversight that stands above the rest: Sen. Gardner remains the only Colorado senator of either party since the Wilderness Act became law in 1964 not to sponsor a wilderness bill. In a state where 69 percent of Coloradans self-identify as conservationists, this shortcoming represents a stunning failure to lead.

Finally, Sen. Gardner has consistently supported President Trump’s administrative nominees regardless of their qualifications or conflicts of interest, including his vote to confirm a former coal lobbyist — David Bernhardt — to lead the Department of the Interior, the agency responsible for protecting America’s natural resources.

This decision builds on the senator’s track record of promoting scandal-ridden candidates to top federal offices and ignoring the public, 57% of whom opposed Bernhardt’s confirmation.

Coloradans expect more from their elected leaders. For many years, Colorado has played a visionary role in the West, passing common-sense policies to protect our state and provide national leadership on the issues of our day. Unfortunately, Sen. Gardner’s lack of leadership puts that legacy at risk.

From the very beginning of his first race for the Senate, in which he promised to be “a new kind of Republican,” Sen. Gardner has attempted to convince Coloradans that he’s a champion for our communities and our environment.

So far, he has failed to deliver on that promise. He has much to improve when it comes to representing Colorado values.

Kelly Nordini is executive director of Conservation Colorado, the state’s largest conservation organization.