Updated 6:15 p.m.
Timothy M. Kaine sought to turn the tables on George Allen on Tuesday, accusing his fellow U.S. Senate candidate of being irresponsible in his discussion of the possibility of a new oil or gas pipeline in Virginia.
Former governors Kaine (D) and Allen (R), the likely nominees in the contest to succeed retiring Sen. James Webb (D), have been squabbling for days over the Keystone XL oil pipeline. After President Obama said last week that he was rejecting an application to build the pipeline from Canada, Kaine said he agreed with the decision and that the pipeline needed more environmental and safety review.
Allen has used the pipeline debate to make two points — that Kaine is opposing a project that would create jobs because he is in the thrall of the environmental lobby, and that Kaine takes all of his cues on important issues from his friend and political ally Obama.
During an appearance on 1070 WINA radio in Charlottesville on Tuesday morning, Allen addressed a hypothetical question about a new pipeline being built in Virginia, saying that “if there were an issue, gosh, we’d put a natural gas pipeline, or should we put an oil pipeline through Virginia, it wouldn’t be worrying about, gosh, let’s have a study, let’s determine the danger of this.”
In a call with reporters Tuesday, Kaine called Allen’s position “really ridiculous, and the notion that we can approve things without study … is flat wrong.”
In response, Allen spokeswoman Katie Wright said: “This is just another desperate attempt from Chairman Kaine to distract Virginians from his unabashed support for President Obama’s counterproductive, punishing energy policies that are destroying jobs and increasing costs. Tim Kaine’s decision to side with President Obama on Keystone Pipeline and say no to thousands of good-paying American jobs shows just how out of touch he is with the reality of how tough high gasoline costs are for working families and small businesses, especially in suburbs and rural areas.”
Kaine’s campaign said it was inaccurate to suggest that Kaine and Obama had the same position on Keystone or that Kaine is rejecting new jobs, since Kaine has been more explicit than the administration has in saying that the pipeline could still be built once the review process is completed.
Kaine also circled back to another argument that he and fellow Democrats have made — that Kaine’s position on Keystone is similar to the one taken by Allen on uranium mining in Virginia. Allen has said he wanted to read a National Academy of Sciences report on the issue before taking a position on whether mining should be allowed.
While taking that stance on uranium, Kaine said, “George has taken a precisely opposite position on the Keystone pipeline.”
Allen addressed that comparison in the same radio interview Tuesday, saying: “Well there’s a big difference, in that there are pipelines, again, throughout Virginia, and throughout Nebraska, and throughout the Plains, so that, the pipeline issue has been studied for three years, the uranium mining issue, there’s been a moratorium in Virginia for years, and with a moratorium naturally there’s no studies.. ... So they are not at all comparable.”
Allen’s point, his campaign said, was not that a new Virginia pipeline would require no study at all — particularly on where a pipeline should be located — but that it would not require the same kind of baseline safety studies uranium mining would require, because the state already has experience and regulations in place to govern pipelines.
Allen’s camp also noted, as have other Republican supporters of Keystone, that the pipeline has been under review for more than three years, suggesting that Kaine’s call for further review was simply an excuse to avoid taking a firm stand.