Landrieu Heitkamp Manchin

Then-Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) speaks while then-Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) stand beside her and a map of the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline in the U.S. Senate in Washington, D.C. on November 18, 2014. (Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

'Utterly Shameless': Former Democratic Senators Join Fossil Fuel Lobby Group

"This is climate denial and shameful bullshit," scoffed one scientist. "Also the future for Manchin and Sinema."

Environmentalists on Thursday excoriated two former Democratic U.S. senators who announced they are joining a pro-fossil fuel group that falsely promotes fracked gas as a "solution" to the climate emergency.

"I don't understand how these people sleep at night."

Natural Allies for a Clean Energy Future--a self-described "coalition of interested stakeholders that recognize the vital role natural gas and its infrastructure must play in the energy mix"--said Wednesday that former Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and Mary Landrieu (D-La.) are joining its leadership council.

Biologist and author Sandra Steingraber reacted to the senators' move by tweeting: "This is climate denial and shameful bullshit. Also the future for Manchin and Sinema," a reference to Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), two leading Democratic recipients of Big Oil campaign contributions.

David Roberts, publisher of the clean energy newsletter Volts, called Heitkamp an "utterly shameless corporate shill" who is "fresh from defending corporations against higher taxes."

Heitkamp and Landrieu both represented states whose economies are heavily dependent upon fossil fuel production. Both senators also supported controversial fossil fuel projects--including the Keystone XL Pipeline--during their congressional careers.

"Sen. Landrieu and I believe that it is time to make real climate progress. That real progress will not be achieved unless forward-thinking partners in the natural gas industry are at the table and embraced as part of the solution," Heitkamp claimed in a Natural Allies press release.

Climate and environmental campaigners strongly argue that gas is an insidious and false climate "solution."

As the Sierra Club noted last month:

Oil and gas companies are rebranding their climate-warming products to make them sound "clean" and "green"... Natural gas is a fossil fuel, and its production leaks methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from well-source to pipeline to power plant. Burning natural gas creates carbon dioxide... This will not reduce our carbon footprint.

In an interview with The Hill, Heitkamp said will be working toward "changing hearts and minds of people in the climate movement."

Landrieu added that "we're not lobbying for any federal or state or local policy, just touting the science and the benefits of this really remarkable asset."

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Roberts added, "I don't understand how these people sleep at night."

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