Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell and Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes jousted Monday over who better defends the Kentucky coal industry against new federal pollution standards.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s groundbreaking regulations announced Monday aim to reduce carbon dioxide emissions at power plants.
The ”Clean Power Plan” seeks to lower greenhouse gases by 30 percent over the next 15 years. During the announcement, EPA officials cited weather disasters and the economic costs of higher carbon emissions as the need for the stricter rules.
Republicans took the EPA’s announcement as an opportunity to blast the Obama administration for targeting the country’s over 600 coal-fired power plants.
“This is the single worst blow to Kentucky’s economy in modern times. Nothing else even comes close to what this regulation will do to our state and its ability to compete,” McConnell said at a news conference late Monday morning at Louisville International Airport.
Among GOP lawmakers, McConnell has been a chief critic of the president’s policies, calling the pollution controls a “war on coal” and arguing the new standards will reduce Kentucky jobs and increase utility bills.
Like many red state Democrats, Grimes also chose to chastise the Obama administration’s energy plan despite receive hefty contributions from big environmental donors.
From the Grimes campaign:
“President Obama’s new EPA rule is more proof that Washington isn’t working for Kentucky. Coal keeps the lights on in the Commonwealth, providing a way for thousands of Kentuckians to put food on their tables. When I’m in the U.S. Senate, I will fiercely oppose the President’s attack on Kentucky’s coal industry because protecting our jobs will be my number one priority.”
The new rules were mandated by a 2007 Supreme Court ruling that the EPA has the authority to protect citizens from pollutant such as carbon emissions.
Federal officials have stressed the flexibility in the regulations and noted states can choose how to follow the standards such as updating pollution controls at coal plants.
McConnell said he plans to introduce an amendment to block the EPA rules, but he expects Democratic Leader Harry Reid will block the proposal.
Locked in a tight re-election campaign against Grimes, the GOP leader was quick to question how she could do a better job representing the coal industry’s interest.
“Senator Reid recruited her to run and the groups who are in favor of this regulation are contributing to her campaign,” he said.
“So I’m not surprised that she says she’s pro-coal. What else can she say? She would be ineffectively pro-coal because her election would guarantee we had a Senate that couldn’t do anything about this problem.”
Grimes and Reid hold opposing views on the EPA regulations, but the two are scheduled to appear at a fundraiser for Grimes in Washington, D.C. this week.
Asked if she plans to speak with the Democratic leader about the regulations, Grimes campaign spokeswoman Charly Norton told WFPL: “Alison is absolutely livid about the new rule and plans to use the event to share the stories of how Kentuckians are hurting and demand that the Senate take action to invest in clean coal technology.”