BISMARCK, N.D. — President Barack Obama is "wrong" on energy policy and should fire his energy secretary and Environmental Protection Agency administrator, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Heidi Heitkamp told a pro-business North Dakota audience Thursday.
Heitkamp and Republican rival Rick Berg spoke Thursday night at a forum hosted by the North Dakota Chamber of Commerce.
Heitkamp, who has been critical of what she says is the Obama administration's hostility to oil and coal development, was asked what she would tell the Democratic president about energy policy.
She replied that she would tell Obama: "You're wrong on energy. You're headed in the wrong direction. You made bad decisions. ... You promised that you would promote clean coal technologies, that you would be a champion of coal, and you haven't done it."
The president should replace Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Lisa Jackson, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Heitkamp said. She described Jackson as openly hostile to coal development.
"Do not sit in a small room, with a small group of advisers, and decide (energy policy)," Heitkamp said. "You have to have a broad dialogue."
Berg said he would emphasize the importance of an inclusive energy policy on job creation and economic growth.
"If we want to ignite America's fires again, what we need is an approach like North Dakota, an all-of-the-above approach" to energy development, Berg said.
The two candidates clashed on whether to repeal the Affordable Care Act, a health care overhaul measure that is regarded as one of the president's top legislative achievements.
The measure is so riddled with imperfections it would be best to junk it and start over, Berg argued.
Heitkamp said doing so would risk some provisions beneficial to North Dakota, including more than $600 million in federal Medicare reimbursements to the state's hospitals that they would not otherwise get.
"Let's not throw away everything we've got," Heitkamp said.
The two candidates are working to succeed Democratic Sen. Kent Conrad, who is not running for re-election.
Republicans are counting on a Berg victory in their bid to retake control of the U.S. Senate, but Democrats believe Heitkamp, a former North Dakota attorney general and tax commissioner, can keep the seat in Democratic hands.