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Lamborn, senior Natural Resources lawmaker, to retire

By Timothy Cama | 01/05/2024 04:17 PM EST

The Colorado Republican has held several top spots on the committee. He’s frequently clashed with Democrats on fossil fuels and public lands.

Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.).

Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), vice chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, announced his retirement Friday. David Zalubowski/AP

Colorado Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn, a longtime senior member of the House Natural Resources Committee and its current vice chair, is retiring from Congress.

Lamborn, 69, announced Friday on a radio show that he will serve out his term that ends next January but will not run for reelection.

“I’m not getting any younger. I want to spend time with my children, my grandchildren and my wife,” he told host Richard Randall on KVOR.

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“It’s been an awesome responsibility but an awesome opportunity as well, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” he said.

Lamborn said he would focus in the coming year on House Armed Services Committee priorities like hypersonic vehicles and modernizing nuclear weapons.

He’s the latest in a line of more than three dozen House lawmakers who have either left the chamber or said they would retire since the beginning of last year.

Lamborn was previously chair of the Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources and later led its Water, Oceans and Wildlife Subcommittee.

Clashes with Obama administration

His time atop Energy and Mineral Resources coincided with President Barack Obama’s tenure. Lamborn repeatedly accused the Obama administration of trying to shut down fracking and to permanently end coal leasing on federal land.

“When the Department of the Interior makes a decision affecting revenues or royalties from federal lands, the schoolchildren of New York, or Iowa, or Texas are not seriously affected,” in a 2016 hearing. “But in Colorado, Wyoming and Montana a child’s future is directly impacted by such a decision.”

He frequently clashed with Obama administration leadership, including once declaring that getting information from the Interior Department was “like pulling teeth.”

He was a leading voice in opposition to Interior’s 2016 Stream Protection Rule that was meant to reduce the impact of surface mining on waterways, and a lead sponsor of the 2017 legislation that successfully overturned it.

“The only reason the administration is pushing this ill-conceived proposal is because of how effective the administration has been in its war on coal,” he said . His panel pushed legislation to amend the National Environmental Policy Act to speed up mine permitting in 2015.

And while he usually disagreed with Democrats on proposals to clean up abandoned mines, Colorado colleagues from both parties in sponsoring bipartisan legislation to tackle the problem.

Following the 2015 spill of mining waste into a tributary of Colorado’s Animas River by an EPA contractor, Lamborn helped lead the GOP’s investigation into the matter and EPA’s responsibility.

As the top Republican on the Water, Oceans and Wildlife panel, Lamborn’s work frequently focused on attempts to reduce compliance burdens for the Endangered Species Act.

He tried multiple times to stop ESA protections for the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse, which has significant areas of habitat in Colorado, and for the greater sage grouse.

He’s advocated for more hydropower, including legislation that would allow pumped-storage hydropower at federally owned dams.

Advocate for military cleanup

Lamborn was considered a contender for the role of top Republican on the full Natural Resources Committee in 2020, when Utah Rep. Rob Bishop retired, and it went to Arkansas Rep. Bruce Westerman.

Lamborn is also a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee and was previously chair of the Readiness Subcommittee.

That gave him a front-row seat in battles over the military’s responsibility for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination, which has been found in communities in his district, including Fountain, which sits near Peterson Space Force Base, a former Air Force base.

He has advocated for the military to do more to clean up contamination and prevent it in the future but has not backed some Democratic legislation to force the Defense Department’s hand.

He currently leads the Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces.

Lamborn was first elected to the House in 2006 after winning a crowded Republican primaryand previously was a state lawmaker. He has at times faced competitive primaries, including in 2018, when he was briefly kicked off the primary ballot because a signature gatherer working for his campaign did not live in the state, but he was allowed back on.

The 5th District, centered on Colorado Springs, leans Republican, so the GOP is favored to keep the seat. He joins fellow Colorado Republican Rep. Ken Buck in retiring; Rep. Lauren Boebert (R) is running for reelection in Buck’s 4th District instead of her 3rd District.