Green groups are fearful of Republicans winning the Senate majority in November, predicting it could lead to a “whittling away” of environmental regulations at the hands of GOP leaders.
While environmental groups are spending millions of dollars trying to save the Senate for Democrats, they acknowledge the possibility that they could be forced to play defense against an all-Republican Congress in 2015.
“I think that the wholesale repeal of environmental legislation, repealing [Environmental Protection Agency] greenhouse gas authority, things like that, that’s unlikely to happen,” said Ben Schreiber, director of the climate program at Friends of the Earth.
“It is much more the painful whittling away [regulations] by attaching things to must-pass legislation,” he said, referring to policy riders that could be attached to legislation funding the government.
Republicans feel bullish about their chances of gaining the six seats they need to win Senate control. That outcome could elevate Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), a staunch opponent of Obama’s environmental policies, to majority leader, provided he wins his own tough reelection race.
McConnell has begun to talk about the agenda that Republicans would pursue in the majority, placing a heavy emphasis on energy and environmental issues. He has promised to bring up a bill that would force the federal government to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, and vowed action on measures to overturn EPA pollution rules.
The GOP has done all it can to stop many of Obama’s environmental regulations, and the House has voted dozens of times to roll back his authority.
“Americans have seen a barrage of regulations and red tape from the president’s Environmental Protection Agency, strangling the coal industry, one of my home state’s most important sources of jobs and economic development,” McConnell said recently on the Senate floor.
“The regulations and lack of certainty in the coal industry that this administration has caused have contributed to a loss of 7,000 Kentucky jobs in that industry since the year President Obama took office,” he added.
Even if Republicans do triumph at the polls, they are not expected to come anywhere close to the 60-vote majority that would be needed to break filibusters by Democrats.
That means votes from centrists Democrats — many of whom hail from energy producing states — could be decisive in whether any of the GOP bills reach President Obama’s desk.
Daniel J. Weiss, who leads the campaign activities for the League of Conservation Voters (LCV), said he fears that Republicans would seek to block the EPA’s ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, which it has been able to do since a 2007 Supreme Court ruling.