GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Sen. Debbie Stabenow wrote the bill that banned drilling for oil on the Great Lakes, but Republican candidates seeking to challenge her in November are making it a campaign issue to out one of their own.
Holland Republican Pete Hoekstra, who lives about two miles from Lake Michigan, is under fire from his GOP opposition and Democrats alike for the alleged shifting tide on his oil drilling position.
In a stop last week in Clarkston, Hoekstra told tea party members that he supports directional drilling from onshore sites around the Great Lakes. That’s the opposite stance he took in 2001 and 2005, when he voted for a ban on the practice while in the U.S. House.
Hoekstra clarified Monday that he believes the issue belongs to states to decide, not Washington, and that advances in technology have made it a safer practice than before.
But it didn’t take long for Hoekstra’s Republican primary opponents Gary Glenn and Clark Durant, environmentalists, and state and national Democrats to seize on the apparent misstep.
“Pete said he favored directional drilling under the Great Lakes, and then Pete ran for cover under (scrutiny) from environmentalists,” Glenn said Monday.
Clean Water Action, Sierra Club, and Progress Michigan, on Monday, all called for Hoekstra to reverse his drilling position, but none mentioned Glenn’s admitted “drill, baby, drill,” drive.
“That decision better be made here in the state,” Hoekstra said. “If you let that decision be made in Washington, they’ll tell you where to drill. If you call that running from accountability, you can do that. Or you can say, OK, that’s pretty smart. I’d rather trust the people (here) over the people in Washington to make that decision.”
Durant, considered by pundits to be Hoekstra’s primary competition, drew his line in the sand, taking the opposite tack as Glenn and backing Stabenow’s position of a Great Lakes drilling ban.
“I’m not going to let one driller go into the water of the Great Lakes,” Durant said. “It’s a tremendous asset. We do not need to put that at risk to drill, baby, drill. There are plenty of places to drill. Don’t put the Great Lakes at risk. That’s one of the things that makes Michigan special.”
Democrats criticized Hoekstra’s alleged drilling flip-flop, and Glenn’s position by association, by saying federal studies indicate there are about 312 million barrels of oil under the water. That would provide 16 days of energy and have virtually no impact on world markets, Democrats said.
"Hoekstra's desire to end the federal ban on drilling the Great Lakes for oil is totally out of the mainstream and completely outrageous,” said Mark Brewer, the chair of the state party. “Even most Republicans have supported the ban on drilling in the Lakes because they recognize that a disaster like the BP spill in the Gulf or the Enbridge spill in Michigan could destroy the Great Lakes - and the jobs and industries that depend on them.”
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