Most newly elected senators head to Washington vowing to represent the people of their state. Many do a valiant job, but others get distracted along the way, as the recent budget debate revealed.
During the budget process, one Colorado senator, Michael Bennet, took a stand for reducing air pollution, expanding clean energy, and addressing climate change. Meanwhile, Colorado's other senator, Cory Gardner, opposed all these measures and voted to make it easier to pollute streams that supply 1 out of 3 Americans with drinking water.
The people of Colorado aren't asking for more pollution.
Two-thirds of residents in Colorado and eight other battleground states said they favored the Environmental Protection Agency's plan to reduce carbon pollution from power plants. And right after the midterm elections last fall, 69 percent of Coloradoans said they wanted Senator-elect Gardner to support measures to shield communities from climate change.
It's no surprise why most Coloradoans welcome climate action. Their state has already experienced the larger wildfires, intense storms and devastating flash floods that are hallmarks of climate change. Much of Colorado is currently experiencing moderate or severe drought conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
At the same time, the state is moving forward with clean energy solutions that reduce climate change pollution. Colorado has a robust wind sector, and more than 72,000 residents work in the green goods and services sector. The state was ranked 4th in the nation for clean energy leadership in 2014 by Clean Edge, the market analysis firm.
When he was running for office, Senator Gardner understood the importance of clean energy, shooting a campaign ad at a wind farm because he knew zero-pollution energy and good-paying jobs matter to Coloradoans.
Yet since arriving in Washington, he has consistently opposed measures to expand clean energy and other climate solutions. Instead, he has cast his lot with the oil, gas and coal companies that spent more than $720 million over the past two years to advance their candidates and interests in Washington. Now Senator Gardner is helping advance the Big Polluter Agenda.
Senator Bennet is doing the opposite. During the budget debate, he introduced an amendment recognizing the economic and national security threats posed by human-induced climate change. The amendment called for tackling these threats through increased use of renewable power, energy efficiency and reductions in carbon pollution.
He also championed climate science and the ability for Americans to speak the truth about scientific fact. He supported an amendment to establish a budget point of order against any legislation designed to censor or otherwise limit federal agencies or employees from describing scientific evidence related to climate change--including the impact to public health, the environment or the economy.
Amendments don't always get a lot of attention back in home districts. But the people of Colorado deserve to know when their elected officials represent their health and well-being and when they vote for more pollution.