Fri November 2, 2012
U.S. Senate Race: Baldwin, Thompson Part on Pipeline
Energy and environmental issues trigger more disagreement between Wisconsin U.S. Senate candidates Tommy Thompson and Tammy Baldwin.
The proposed Keystone pipeline would be hundreds of miles from Wisconsin, carrying tar sands oil from Canada to Texas. But former Gov. Thompson doesn't let too many public appearances go by without touting the project. Thompson's talked Keystone in Eau Claire, La Crosse, you name it including during last Friday night's Senate debate in Milwaukee, in which he said the pipeline could mean 20,000 jobs, some of which would go to Wisconsin companies.
Thompson's opponent, Democratic House member Tammy Baldwin opposes the Keystone pipeline. She says the company that wants to build it, doesn't want to agree to enough environmental protections. Baldwin says fuel pipelines break and did so twice in Wisconsin this summer.
"Let's talk to people in Wisconsin and in Washington County and Adams County" she said. "Both have pipelines that come through their counties, that have burst, spilling oil into their environment."
In Washington County just northwest of Milwaukee, crews were out in the wind this week continuing to deal with the aftermath of the July 17 spill of 55,000 gallons of gasoline. The pipe has been fixed, but contaminated groundwater is prompting more well sampling and other measures. Town of Jackson Chairman Raymond Heidtke says about 70 local residents are still drinking bottled water, while the town and the DNR work on long-term drinking water options. Heidtke says the whole episode has been a big challenge.
"You can't sell property in this area," he says. "That's a huge burden on taxpayers, not knowing what's going to happen with their property values."
But Heidtke defends having underground pipelines, saying they're needed to carry fuel.
However, a national environmental group this week is also focusing on Tommy Thompson's general backing of the oil industry. Thompson also wants to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and supports federal subsidies for the oil industry. So the league of conservation voters has been airing a television commercial, supporting representative Baldwin. It says she will end giveaways to big oil companies.
The group is also running a second ad on clean energy, spending about one-million dollars on the commercials. League spokesman Jeff Goeringer says it's a lot of money, "We feel very strongly about the need to get Tammy Baldwin into the United States Senate. She has been an ally of President Obama in creating clean energy jobs and moving Wisconsin forward."
A Republican group trying to elect GOP senators criticizes the ads, saying besides opposing the Keystone pipeline, Baldwin supports tougher pollution limits on industrial boilers, and has a job-killing agenda.
The ad controversy is another reminder of the role the Thompson-Baldwin contest is playing in the battle for control of the U.S. Senate. House member Randy Neugebauer, a Republican from the oil fields of West Texas, recently told the Society of Environmental Journalists what his party would do about energy if it controls both houses of congress and the White House.
"It's incumbent on either party in control to give the American people some kind of energy strategy."
But Al Armendariz, a former EPA official now with the Sierra Club, says GOP control in Washington would mean more success for many de-regulation efforts recently attempted by the House of Representatives.
"It would be very bad for environmental protection. If the House's efforts had succeeded in the last few years, you would have seen wholesale rollbacks in many of the environmental protections."
Armendariz predicts the elections will result in a continued sharing of power in Washington. But the correctness of that prediction may depend on how Wisconsin goes in the Thompson-Baldwin senate race and the presidential contest.