Embattled Democrats Run From Obama's New Emissions Plan

Monday, 02 Jun 2014 07:26 AM

By Elliot Jager

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Democrats up for re-election in states dependent on coal or oil continue to distance themselves from the Obama administration's latest environmental policies, Politico reported.

On Monday, President Barack Obama is set to announce tough new climate change proposals that would cut power plant generated carbon pollution 30 percent by 2030, The New York Times reported.

The political and electoral impact of the proposals is uncertain, according to Politico. Much depends on whether Republicans can tie Democrats to the president's policies, and how well the Environmental Protection Agency carries out the new rules and responds to states that do not meet its guidelines. In some states, including Michigan, Democratic support for the administration's climate policies could be a political plus.

Coal state Democrats such as Kentucky Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes have deplored the EPA rules. She is challenging incumbent Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is staunchly critical of the EPA. McConnell has tied Grimes to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid known for not being a friend of coal.

Grimes said she is a "pro-coal Kentuckian," according to Politico.

Kentucky Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear has signed legislation that would dissuade utilities from shifting away from coal and passing on higher electricity costs to consumers, Politico reported.

In West Virginia, veteran Rep. Nick Rahall, a Democrat, is outspoken in his opposition to the EPA and has promised to work to block implementation of the rules. The National Republican Congressional Committee considers Rahall vulnerable.

In Virginia, Democratic Sen. Mark Warner has maintained his credentials as a friend of coal and urged the president to rethink his EPA policies.

In Louisiana, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Mary Landrieu is known as a supporter of the Keystone XL pipeline and a foe of EPA rules.

Sen. Mark Begich in Alaska has taken a more nuanced stance. He's a backer of EPA regulations — garnering support from green groups — while being a friend of the state's oil and gas industry. Republicans have run ads lambasting his support of a carbon tax  — though Begich insists he is against it.

In Colorado, Sen. Mark Udall is facing GOP criticism for not taking a clear cut pro-Keystone position and for his backing of EPA rules. Like Begich, Udall's stance has brought him backing from environmentalists. EPA policies could be a boon to Colorado's natural gas business. Moreover, voters' unease over climate change could hurt GOP challenger Cory Gardner.

In the Pennsylvania governor's race, coal has not been a prominent element in the campaign between Democrat Tom Wolf and Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, according to Politico.

In states where the federal government is seen as intrusive, Arkansas Sens. Mark Pryor has called for more time for public input on the EPA proposals. In North Carolina, Sen. Kay Hagan is a supporter of Keystone, fracking, and offshore drilling. She's pushed to delay the new EPA rules while taking her GOP opponent, Thom Tillis, to task for being a climate change skeptic.

In the Florida governor's race, Politico said, Democratic candidate Charlie Crist could be hurt by voters in parts of the state who are put off by Washington, while Republican Gov. Rick Scott's skepticism of climate change puts him in hot water with more liberal areas of the state.

Heather Zichal, a former Obama administration climate adviser, said "I can't find a single race where I think [the new EPA] proposal … is going to mean that the Democrat doesn't get elected," according to Politico.

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