BOSTON — Environmental activists are vowing to do everything they can to help Democratic U.S. Senate hopeful Edward Markey in his special election battle with Republican challenger Gabriel Gomez.
During the Democratic primary, environmental groups spent nearly $1.8 million in outside money to help Markey defeat Stephen Lynch.
Markey and Lynch had agreed to the so-called People’s Pledge, which discouraged outside groups from launching television, radio or Internet campaign ads. That forced the groups to spend most of their money on organizing and get-out-the-vote efforts.
But Gomez has rejected the pledge, allowing environmental and other groups on both sides to pour millions into ads if they want.
For many environmental advocates, the most pressing issue is the fate of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, which Markey opposes but Gomez supports.
President Barack Obama is considering whether to approve the pipeline, which would carry 800,000 barrels of oil a day from Canada across six U.S. states to the Texas Gulf Coast. A decision is expected this summer.
Opponents say the pipeline poses an environmental risk, but supporters say it will create desperately needed jobs.
The pipeline is the top concern for the NextGen Committee, which spent $887,452 during the primary to defeat Lynch. The group is backed by California billionaire Thomas Steyer.
Without access to more traditional advertising methods during the primary, the committee spent more than a third of its money on airplane banners. The group paid to have an airplane trail a banner that read: “Steve Lynch says: Go Habs! And Go Canadian Dirty Oil.”
“Habs” is the nickname for the Montreal Canadiens. The banner was flown ahead of matchup between the two hockey teams. Lynch, a die-hard Boston Bruins fan, cried foul.
A spokesman for the group said they’re discussing options for television and radio ads with their local partners in the general election, but are committed either way to helping Markey defeat Gomez, given the clear differences between the two.