President Obama’s announcement Wednesday that he was rejecting an application to build the Keystone XL oil pipeline is reverberating in Virginia’s Senate race, as George Allen continues his effort to link Timothy M. Kaine to the more controversial positions of the administration.
Former governors Allen (R) and Kaine (D), their respective parties’ front-runners in the contest to succeed retiring Sen. James Webb (D), have been bickering for months over energy policy as well as the broader issue of Kaine’s close personal and political ties to Obama, who picked Kaine to serve as Democratic National Committee chairman.
Allen has particularly sought to make hay over Keystone, which backers say would create a multitude of U.S. jobs while helping to diversify the country’s energy supply. Opponents say the pipeline and the increase in tar sands exploration would hurt the environment without creating as many U.S. jobs as promised.
“This negative political decision is a disappointing continuation of the counterproductive energy policies that are punishing working families and small business owners with unnecessarily high fuel and energy costs,” Allen said in a statement Wednesday.
Separately, the Republican Party of Virginia hit Kaine for his “silence” on the issue, as the Democrat has largely avoided discussing Keystone.
But Kaine’s campaign issued a statement of its own Wednesday afternoon, largely echoing the Obama administration’s position — and assigning some blame to the GOP for the whole controversy.
“Today’s decision is yet another example of Washington’s dysfunction,” Kaine said. “Instead of a thorough review of the Keystone Pipeline project, congressional Republicans pushed for a hasty decision and even went so far as to hold a middle class tax cut hostage until they got their way.”
Kaine also noted that the pipeline is not dead, adding: “I hope that the administration will continue to examine this project and offer its thoughts on how it can be safely accomplished.”
Republicans have suggested that Kaine’s approach to Keystone is part of a larger pattern, in which he punts on major issues until Obama takes a position.
But Democrats note that Allen himself has been known to call for further review of sensitive environmental questions, such as when he said last month that he would wait for a National Academy of Sciences report before taking a position on uranium mining in Virginia.