By Zack Colman - 10/12/12 02:30 PM EDT
North Dakota Senate candidate Heidi Heitkamp (D) on Thursday said President Obama is “wrong on energy” and should fire the chiefs of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Energy Department.
Asked what she would tell Obama about his energy policy, Heitkamp said, “You’re wrong on energy. You’re headed in the wrong direction. You made bad decisions. … You promised that you would promote clean coal technologies, that you would be a champion of coal, and you haven’t done it,” according to The Associated Press.
Heitkamp made the comments at a forum hosted by the North Dakota Chamber of Commerce, where opponent Rick Berg (R-N.D.) also spoke.
On Thursday, Heitkamp expanded her admonishments to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson and Energy Secretary Steven Chu.
“Do not sit in a small room, with a small group of advisers, and decide [energy policy],” Heitkamp said. “You have to have a broad dialogue.”
Obama’s delayed decision on approval of the Keystone XL pipeline is unpopular in North Dakota, which stands to benefit from its construction.
The pipeline would transport Canadian oil sands and oil from North Dakota’s booming Bakken formation to Texas refineries. Currently, getting oil from the Bakken formation to refineries races bottlenecks, as it is transported by rail, trucks and smaller pipelines.
But Obama, who must rule on the pipeline’s northern leg because it crosses into Canada, said he would decide on Keystone after the election. Conservatives viewed the move as a sop to environmentalists who oppose the project and largely support Obama in the presidential race.
Heitkamp also has denounced cap-and-trade regulation, which Obama supported when such legislation passed the House in 2009. Heitkamp said that system would raise costs on power plants, which would translate into higher energy prices for consumers.
Republicans said Heitkamp's sharp words were merely an attempt to draw attention away from her campaign contributors.
"[I]t’s no wonder she’s now in a mad dash to try and deflect from those donations by shamelessly saying the EPA Administrator and Energy Secretary should be gone,” Lance Trover, a spokesman with the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said Friday in an e-mail. “Of course, she really didn’t have much choice, since the Administrator and the Secretary are really the only two national Democrats she hasn’t fundraised with."
The GOP has focused on donations Heitkamp received from a law firm that has represented groups opposed to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, for natural gas.
Brandon Lorenz, spokesman for the Heitkamp campaign, said getting Keystone XL approved is one of the candidate's top energy priorities, along with extending a wind industry incentive that is set to expire on Dec. 31. Obama wants to extend the 2.2-cent per kilowatt-hour incentive for wind power production, while GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney would let it end as scheduled.
"North Dakota is the second leading producer of oil in the country, and Heidi has said she will do what's best for North Dakota, which means building the Keystone XL pipeline to ship the oil, but also renewing the production tax credit for wind energy, because North Dakota has the potential to lead the nation in wind energy production," Lorenz said.
A Mason-Dixon poll released last week has Heitkamp and Berg in a tie. The firm released another poll Tuesday that showed GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney with a 54-40 edge over Obama in the state.
The Hill rates the North Dakota race as a “toss-up.”
The Heitkamp campaign did not immediately return requests for comment.
— This story was updated at 11:10 a.m., 11:29 a.m. and 3:52 p.m.