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KVNF Candidate Interview: Mark Udall

mark udall
Laura Palmisano

Editor's Note: This story aired in July and was rebroadcast in October. 

U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., campaigned in Montrose at a voter meet-and-greet Tuesday. 

Udall faces Republican challenger Cory Gardner in a hotly contested race that could decide which party controls the Senate. 

KVNF's Laura Palmisano was at the event and brings us this candidate interview. 


PALMISANO: How will Obama's Climate Change Action Plan impact Colorado? 

UDALL: The president's Climate Action Plan creates enormous opportunity for Colorado. We're a best of the above energy state. We have renewables. We have clean-burning natural gas. We have an energy efficiency focus like no other state. We also have some very clean coal in our state. We're poised to create jobs, do our part for national security, and protect the environment right here in Colorado. I've embraced the president's plan. It's the right thing to do. Climate change is happening. It threatens our economy. It threatens our very way of life but if we go to work now and turn these new technologies that we'll develop into jobs it will be a plus for the state and the country.

PALMISANO: How will the Clean Power Act affect the state's coal industry? In the Poania area we have three coal mines.

UDALL: The key to all of this is to put the R&D (resource and development) money in place to research ways in which we use coal but we reduce the emissions significantly. Carbon emissions are changing our climate not just in Colorado [and] not just in the U.S. but around the world. Coal is abundant but in order to continue using it and keep faith with our children we need to reduce the emissions that come off that coal. And I'm one who believes we can find the technology to capture that carbon and then sequester it in underground caverns and in other ways. 

PALMISANO: Let's go back to the Clean Power Act. What is your opinion on that and how could it change the coal industry?

UDALL: The Clean Power Act provides state by state flexibility and Colorado is already leading the way in reducing our carbon emissions so the Clean Power Act is going to be implemented here in Colorado in ways that I believe will enhance job creation, protect our environment, and also as a member of the Armed Services Committee I'm always looking for ways to be more energy independent. There's a lot of opportunity in the Clean Power Act for all of our energy resources here in Colorado.

PALMISANO: Let's stay on the topic of energy and move onto hydraulic fracturing. What would it mean if ballot measures pass in the state that give cities and towns more power to say we don't want fracturing in our backyard?

UDALL: There has to be a balance here. There are places where we use hydraulic fracturing to produce clean-burning natural gas. There are other places we shouldn't hydraulically fracture because they are of higher values that we think our important. By that I mean there are wildlife refuges, city parks, there are some neighborhoods, [and] there are areas where probably don't want to hydraulic fracture. I think as Coloradans we can come together as we have on many other occasions and find common ground. I do worry that ballot initiatives because of the single subject rule are a clumsy tool to deal with a very complicated public policy debate.

PALMISANO: What is your stance on hydraulic fracturing?

UDALL: My stance on hydraulic fracturing is that it can be done safely. It must be done safely. One well contaminated or one person made sick is one too many. The industry has done a lot up to this point but it could do even more. We can real time test air quality. We can baseline test water quality. We can be thoughtful about when and where we hydraulically fracture. And this state again can lead the country in finding that right balance.

PALMISANO: Wildfire have devastated areas in Colorado so have natural disasters. What are you doing to help our communities here? 

UDALL: What I've done for my entire time in the Congress both in the House and Senate is push for a smart, far reaching strategy when it comes to preventing fires, and recovering from fires. Just over this last year I pushed the Obama administration to bring online the latest in air assets. We need airplanes that can drop slurry and that can prevent fires from spreading. I've also lead the way in getting recovery dollars for places like Colorado Springs and the Poudre River and other areas where we've had these massive fires. I've also led the way in insuring that we then do after action reviews and therefore can come to understand how we prevent fires in the future. We've done a lot when it comes to educating homeowners who are doing a lot more when it comes to creating healthier forests by thinning the underbrush and dead trees so that fire resumes its rightful place in our ecosystems, which is on the ground and in a low intensity fashion.

Laura joined KVNF in 2014. She was the news director for two years and now works as a freelance reporter covering Colorado's Western Slope. Laura is an award-winning journalist with work recognized by the Society of Professional Journalists, Colorado Broadcasters Association, and RTDNA. In 2015, she was a fellow for the Institute for Justice & Journalism. Her fellowship project, a three-part series on the Karen refugee community in Delta, Colorado, received a regional Edward R. Murrow Award.
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