Skip to comments.Democrats brace for climate rule fallout
Posted on 06/01/2014 8:34:06 PM PDT by E. Pluribus Unum
The major climate rule that the Obama administration is unveiling Monday is a political gamble for the presidents party but some Democrats see the risk as manageable, and the cause more than worth it.
The Environmental Protection Agencys rule, meant to cut greenhouse gas pollution from thousands of existing power plants, poses obvious dangers in November for Democrats in coal country and other energy-rich states, as well as regions where many voters dislike federal intrusion. It also poses unknown risks in 2016, when states will have to seek EPA approval for their plans to comply with the rule. But the regulation is also President Barack Obamas best hope for a legacy on climate change, and it offers the U.S. a chance to take a leading role in the global response to the problem.
Its lasting political impact may come down to how effectively EPA carries it out if, for example, the agency can avoid the kind of troubled rollout that plagued Obamacares debut.
Sure, itll have some impact in certain regions, said former Democratic Sen. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, which houses 6 percent of the nations coal reserves and was the second-largest oil-producing state last year. The question that is going be answered, and which is going to make people nervous, is exactly how EPA is going to make compliance decisions.
But he and other Democrats, to varying degrees, think the risks are overstated.
I dont buy these doomsday scenarios some are trying to paint for Democrats, said Heather Zichal, who until last year was Obamas top energy and climate adviser. I cant find a single race where I think this proposal going forward is going to mean that the Democrat doesnt get elected.
(Also on POLITICO: Obama to seek 30 percent cuts in carbon pollution)
In the 2014 races with the rules most obvious political implications, Democrats like West Virginia Rep. Nick Rahall and Kentucky Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes have wasted no time in denouncing the regulation. Others, like Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Mary Landrieu (D-La.), routinely vote for legislation attacking EPA rules and support other energy-friendly causes, like the Keystone XL pipeline.
The big unknown: Will that insulate them from GOP attempts to tie them to Obamas so-called war on coal?
On the other hand, EPA supporters think the rule could help Democrats in some close races in which climate change is becoming a more potent issue, such as Michigans Senate contest. They may get a boost from the months-long publicity barrage that environmentalists plan to launch supporting the rule.
(PHOTOS: Climate skeptics in Congress)
And some candidates may be able to seek middle ground. For instance, Dorgan said Democrats can pair the publics overall belief that climate change is a problem with the message that we do need to produce energy and use all of our fuel sources in a smart way, and we can all work together to make that happen.
Governors reactions will also be important, given the importance of the state compliance plans, said Paul Bledsoe, a Clinton-era climate aide. Right now, sadly, it looks like a fairly partisan landscape, he said.
(PHOTOS: Keystone XL activists march in D.C.)
The reaction from electric power companies could also make a difference politically, including those that have already made significant investments in nuclear, natural gas and renewable energy, which could go a long way to helping states comply.
Is a state governor going to step out there and say, We cant do this, if a utility says, We can get it done? Zichal asked.
Heres a breakdown of where EPAs rule could make a difference:
1. War on coal races
Kentucky Senate: It would be hard to be more anti-EPA than Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who routinely gives speeches attacking Obamas climate agenda as a war on jobs. But Grimes is trying: She used her May 20 primary victory speech to blame both Obamas regulations and McConnell for the decline of the states coal jobs.
McConnell responded in his own victory speech that Grimes is Barack Obamas candidate and sought to tie her to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, whose coal makes us sick remark continues to be a durable McConnell talking point. And the most recent polling suggests McConnell received a slight post-primary boost.
Even in private fundraisers with environmentalists and other liberal donors, Grimes has stayed on message that she is a pro-coal Kentuckian. But McConnell will continue to pummel her on the issue.
Its the biggest single problem that she has right now, said Al Cross, a columnist and former political reporter for the Louisville Courier-Journal who teaches at the University of Kentucky. But Grimes is still defining herself with voters and can talk about coal in ways where you can find some common ground not so much to persuade people but to stanch the losses, he said.
One indication of how concerned Kentucky lawmakers of both parties are about the climate rule: The Legislature unanimously passed a law this year requiring the state to limit electricity cost hikes and discourage switching away from coal when complying with the EPA rules. Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear signed it in April.
West Virginias 3rd District: Rahall has likewise tried to distance himself from the EPA rule, saying in a floor speech Thursday that the only real question is where on a scale from devastating to a death blow the new rule will fall. He promised to look at any and all options to block this proposed rule from being finalized.
But hes still taking a bashing from the National Republican Congressional Committee and conservative groups tied to brothers Charles and David Koch, which have focused on Rahalls support for past budget proposals that included a carbon tax or cap-and-trade policy.
Rahall has long said he opposes a carbon tax, and he has regularly voted for pro-coal legislation in the Republican-led House. Those included a bill he co-sponsored, which the House passed in March, that would block a separate EPA climate rule for future power plants.
After watching his victory margin shrink to 12 points and then 8 points in his past two reelections, Rahall is one of the NRCCs top seven Democratic targets this year and faces probably the toughest fight of his three-decade-long House tenure. Hes the only member from coal country on NRCCs list of Democratic targets, all of whom represent districts that voted for Republicans in the last three presidential elections.
Montana, Virginia and West Virginia Senate: Its unclear whether the races to fill these Democratic-held coal-state seats are going to be close. Republicans running for open seats are favored in Montana and West Virginia, while Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) has so far avoided being tarred with the war on coal label. Warner was one of seven Senate Democrats who wrote to Obama asking him to reconsider his climate proposal for future power plants.
The Virginia race hasnt drawn any interest from climate activist billionaire Tom Steyer and the League of Conservation Voters Action Fund, two big green forces that helped Democrat Terry McAuliffe defeat Republican Ken Cuccinelli in last years Virginia gubernatorial election.
2. Other energy states
Louisiana Senate: Landrieu is an outspoken supporter of her states oil and gas industries, has drawn loyal support from oil companies and can tout backing from Republican shipbuilder Boysie Bollinger. Republicans main criticism is that shes powerless to thwart the agendas of fellow Democrats Obama and Reid. And EPAs rule wont counter Obamas unpopularity in the state, which could hurt her.
Alaska Senate: Sen. Mark Begich has voted against efforts to undermine EPA regulations, making him one of a small number of Senate Democrats whom green groups will help in his reelection effort. Obamas approval rating in Alaska is also among the lowest in the nation. But Begich is an ally overall of the states oil and gas interests, and just hosted a visit from one of the industrys most powerful leaders, American Petroleum Institute CEO Jack Gerard.
This race is one of three this year that the Koch-backed American Energy Alliance has targeted including $526,000 on TV ads attacking Begich for votes cast on a carbon tax, which he says he opposes. If the alliance runs a new round of paid media in the race, it will focus on EPA, an official at the group said.
Colorado Senate: The AEA has targeted Democratic Sen. Mark Udall with a $405,000 TV ad campaign focused on Keystone and, as with the Begich race, would focus on EPA if it does another round of paid media. Udall has consistently voted against undermining EPA rules and has faced accusations of being wishy-washy on proposed local fracking bans. Hes also on a short list of candidates whom Steyer and Democrats green groups are trying to help.
Udall could gain from the potential for the EPA regulations to aid the states natural gas industry, as well as Colorado voters concerns about climate change an issue on which Republican challenger Cory Gardner is perceived as weak.
Pennsylvania governor: The EPA rules arent popular in coal-heavy western Pennsylvania, but the state as a whole is a burgeoning natural gas producer, and coal is a less persuasive issue in swing areas like the Philadelphia suburbs. Democrat Tom Wolf and Republican Gov. Tom Corbett are far apart on climate change, though that issue hasnt played prominently in the race so far. Steyer included this race on his short list of those he is targeting this year.
3. Anti-big government states
Georgia, Arkansas and North Carolina Senate: Democratic Senate candidate Michelle Nunn in Georgia and Sens. Mark Pryor in Arkansas and Kay Hagan in North Carolina face electorates who generally dont lean favorably toward government intervention, making the EPA rule a potential problem.
Pryor has sought to downplay the issue by joining Warner, Landrieu and four other Senate Democrats in signing the letter to Obama questioning the EPAs rule for future power plants. He also signed a letter with Warner, Begich, Walsh and Landrieu asking EPA to at least double the public comment period for the existing-plant rule.
Hagan sent her own letter separately to EPA asking the same, while blasting Republican challenger Thom Tillis for denying climate change.
The LCV Action Fund endorsed Hagan, in part because she has voted against efforts to dismantle EPA regulations. She has tried to balance that by touting her support for Keystone, fracking and offshore drilling.
Florida governor: Many voters in the states interior and Panhandle share the Souths sensibilities against federal intrusion while even South Florida, with its big population of liberal former Northeasterners, includes retirees worried about high taxes and electric bills. That could pose obstacles for Democratic candidate Charlie Crist, though hes been leading in recent polls.
Then again, low-lying Florida is also one of the states most vulnerable to hurricanes and rising sea levels, and Republican Gov. Rick Scott has been on the defensive over his opinions on climate change. In 2011, he said hes not convinced that theres any man-made climate change, while lately he has cautioned that I am not a scientist.
Steyer is targeting the state, too, focusing on Hispanic voters in low-lying South Florida and the politically crucial Interstate 4 corridor, along with voters troubled by soaring flood insurance premiums.
Another sign of the dynamics at play here may be the recent flak that Republican Sen. Marco Rubio took after expressing doubt about the human influence on climate change. Those remarks earned a high level of Latino pushback, including letter-writing campaigns both in Florida and nationally, said Mark Magaña, president of the National Latino Coalition on Climate Change and Green Latinos.
4. The outlook for 2016
If Obamacare provides any guidance, the climate rules political perils could increase as its implementation approaches. That could make 2016 a crucial year: States will probably have to submit their compliance plans by July of that year, and EPA will have 120 days to accept or reject them butting up against November.
By then, it may be clearer which states can easily meet the rules burdens, which will have trouble and which may refuse to go along.
For any state that refuses or doesnt submit a plan deemed acceptable, EPA can step in and impose its own program. While that sounds superficially like Obamacares federal exchanges, EPA has plenty of experience in evaluating states pollution programs and taking over those that fall short.
Meanwhile, Democrats will face a much more favorable Senate electoral map in 2016. Most of the races where EPA may be a factor that year involve Republican-held seats in Alaska, Louisiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Florida, Illinois and Indiana at the very least, Democrats wont lose ground there. But EPA may also come up in the race for Democratic Sen. Michael Bennets seat in Colorado.
Two potential gubernatorial races to watch out for that year involve Democrat-held seats in West Virginia and Montana.
I looked for info on the internet and couldn't fine anything about it.
No mention of coal in Wyoming?
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It’s one of those “We already have established what kind of woman you are. We are now only haggling over the price” things.
We need a pro-God movement, the whining of the atheists and agnostics notwithstanding. Then the jillions of details will begin to get taken care of themselves because... and dig dis... God is real.
Sickos destroying America for their fantasies. Note we are the SECOND biggest co2 producer. Even if this global warming nonsense were true, China is increasing co2 so what Obama is doing is meaningless. Pure kookiness.
Obama just killed the Democratic Party’s chances of winning in 2016. Power bills will soar, and the GOP has just gotten its signature issue for Hillary’s run.
Oh, this will go over big. A big, steaming turd, which will drop right in the lap of each and every Dem who runs in 2014 and 2016. Watch them scramble, like cockroaches when you shine a light on them, running away from this.
My guess is that there will be a LARGE political and legal fight over this, and the idiot will be out of office before any “real” immediate damage is done.
I don’t think that anyone has really considered how much long-term damage has been done here. Power plants and large infrastructure projects are planned,built, and operated on multi-year, multi-decade scales. What company will EVER embark on such a project when they now know that disaster for them will always lurk no more than four years and one idiot away?
It really will be easier to set up shop in another country.
“Power bills will soar,”
What do you mean, “will”?
Power bills, groceries, gas, insurance premiums, taxes—everything has gone up in the last few years, except job openings.
And one scandal after another. Way to go, Barry!
What happens if states refuse to comply? Many will sue. A few will sue and resist. Chaos in implementation is pretty much guaranteed.
What happens if states refuse to comply? Many will sue. A few will sue and resist. Chaos in implementation is pretty much guaranteed.
Sadly, I don't think the average voter will make the connection. Even as we speak, food prices are rising dramatically. Much of that is due to the Fed's inflationary maneuvers.
But not 1 food shopper in 50 will make the connection.
For a dole denominated in dollars, a few will make a connection.