Heidi Heitkamp's Favorite Candidate Would Block Oil, Coal Development On Federal Lands


UPDATE: It appears as though Heidi Heitkamp’s political action committee has donated $5,000 to Clinton’s campaign.

The key to Senator Heidi Heitkamp’s political success in North Dakota is her posturing as a moderate. And the policy area where she does the most posturing is on the topic of energy.

And yet, the presidential candidates she supports – not to mention her own actions, indirectly – keep undermining North Dakota’s energy interests.

For instance, last week President Obama – who Heitkamp has said she voted for and who she supported as a candidate at the Democrat national convention in 2008 – proposed a $10 per-barrel tax on oil that would, at present production levels, amount to a $4.2 billion annual tax on North Dakota producers.

Obama has also stymied the Keystone XL pipeline for years, a project important for North Dakota which Heitkamp campaigned on in 2012. Hillary Clinton, whom Heitkamp has endorsed for president in the 2016 cycle, has said she would continue to roadblock that pipeline.

Now Clinton is saying she would block coal and oil development on federal land:

Griffin Sinclair-Wingate, a 350 Action organizer, approached Clinton after the New Hampshire debate on Thursday night and asked her, “Would you ban extraction on public lands?”

“Yeah, that’s a done deal,” Clinton said, as though her position were obvious. Afterward, she told another 350 activist that she agrees with “where the president is moving. No future extraction.” Adam Greenberg asked her in a third video on Friday while campaigning in New Hampshire, “Would you end all oil, coal, and gas leases on federal lands?” Clinton said, “I want to impose a moratorium … because there are legal issues you have to go through, you know all of that, but I would support a moratorium.”

This is potentially a major headache for coal and oil states like North Dakota.

In this state, like many others, federal lands with fossil fuel resources tend to be in the middle of private and state land. If the federal government blocks development on federal land, or applies some stiff new regulations making development impractical, it would not only inhibit extraction on that federal land but on the state and private land around it.

“These proposed rules are an attempt by this administration to shut down the industry as they pursue their War on Coal,” Rep. Kevin Cramer said in a January 15 press release. “There are North Dakota lease applications under review by the Bureau of Land Management and as a result of today’s announced pause of the leasing program they may not be approved. With approximately 15 percent of the coal in North Dakota classified as federal, making the federal coal program more restrictive will be very expensive and lead to job loss in coal country.  To mine around federal coal is very expensive and could ultimately make a mine economically unfeasible.”

To be fair, Heitkamp has also said she opposes this move, but yet she continues to support the people making these moves. Her party loyalty undermines her own policy positions, whether it’s stuff like this or voting with the Democrat majority to end the filibuster for judicial appointments which resulted in a major victory for anti-coal efforts in the courts.

That’s a difficult thing for Heitkamp to reconcile, and a big, big problem for her political career.

Something I expect to be a major issue if Heitkamp runs for re-election in 2018, though the way things stand now political insiders tell me that’s no sure thing.