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Obama Gets Blowback On Proposed Emissions Cuts

Juliet Eilperin And Steven Mufson, The Washington Post

A new Obama administration proposal to cut carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants prompted an immediate backlash from Democrats in conservative-leaning states Monday, underscoring how the president’s energy policy will become a major front in the battle for control of Congress this fall.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rule, which is subject to public comment and will be finalized a year from now, would cut carbon dioxide emissions from existing natural gas- and coal-fired plants by up to 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. By targeting the nation’s single biggest source of carbon output, the proposal plays a central part in President Obama’s pledge to address climate change before leaving office.

Environmentalists and liberal supporters of the president hailed the move under the Clean Air Act as a long-overdue effort to tackle one of the biggest threats facing the planet. But the plan adds complications for Democrats already facing a difficult midterm election landscape, and both sides announced plans Monday to pour money into states that will be pivotal this fall.

Nineteen states get more than half their electricity from coal-fired power plants, according to data collected by the Energy Information Administration. Kentucky and West Virginia get more than 90 percent of their power from coal. The EPA made concessions to those states in setting its climate target. Coal-heavy Indiana, for example, would need to make smaller percentage cuts than New York or Washington states.

But the compromises did little to curb the attacks on Democratic candidates running in battleground states.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee announced that it would use the decision against vulnerable Democrats with automated calls on Tuesday hitting voice-mail boxes in Virginia, Louisiana, Colorado and Alaska – all states where Democratic senators are seeking re-election. The committee will also target Northern Virginia swing voters, Gulf Coast residents, and independents in Colorado and Alaska, a committee spokeswoman said.

The regulations are “all part of (Obama’s) radical energy plan, which he said would make electricity rates ‘skyrocket,’ ” the robo-call targeting Virginia’s senior senator will say. “Tell Mark Warner higher gas prices and new EPA regulations just don’t make sense for Virginia.”

Some Democrats were also quick to criticize the proposal, including Kentucky Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes and West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, who is running for an open U.S. Senate seat. Tennant pledged to “stand up” to Obama, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy “and anyone else who tries to undermine our coal jobs.”

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