White House counselor John Podesta on Friday dismissed charges that the administration's new plan to regulate carbon emissions is a "war on coal" and would raise the cost of electricity on the lowest-earning Americans.
"I think the poor might be surprised to learn of their concern to the Republicans," Podesta said when Newsmax raised the charges by Republican and coal-state Democrats that the plan was a "war on the poor" because it would raise electricity costs.
Podesta, longtime Democratic operative and former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton, addressed questions at a press breakfast in Washington, D.C., hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.
Although questions on a variety of issues were posed to the top Obama adviser, most dealt with the new emissions regulations, for which Podesta has been a key supporter.
Citing an analysis conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency, Podesta disputed other studies showing the regulations would force the cost of electricity to go up. Because of what he called "efficiency" under the regulations and various steps that states could take, he said, electric bills for the households could decrease.
"There are things we need to do to ensure people get affordable and reliable electricity," he said, pointing to states that are providing for "the weatherizing of homes of low-income Americans."
Podesta also referred to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (ReGGIe), which nine states and several Canadian provinces have joined with the goal of designing a cap-and-trade program for greenhouse gas emissions. New Jersey used to belong to ReGGIe, but Gov. Chris Christie oversaw the withdrawal of his state in 2011.
More states joining initiatives such as ReGGIe and agreeing to its programs, Podesta said, would reduce electricity bills.
Podesta also claimed that savings to the public would be achieved because of "the huge public-health benefits."
Noting the number of Americans that have heart attacks and the lost workdays resulting from carbon emissions, Podesta said "climate change is increasingly a problem of public health and has a particular effect on the elderly. It is the third leading cause of asthma."
With even Democratic Senate nominees in Kentucky and West Virginia denouncing the carbon emissions plan hours after it was unveiled by the administration, Podesta insisted that it "doesn't end coal in the system."
Podesta asserted that the rules only lower reliance on coal from 40 percent to 30 percent by 2030.
"We're not taking all coal out of the electricity system," he said. "[The rules] raise the efficiency of coal states."
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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