Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Roundup for June 3: plenty of coal dust

Day-after fallout from the Obama administration's announcement of its plan to cut greenhouse-gas emissions:
  • McConnell announced this morning that he had filed a bill that would block the regulations unless there were certifications by the Labor Department that it would not generate loss of employment, from the Congressional Budget Office that it would not reduce the gross domestic product, from the Energy Information Administration that it would not increase electricity rates, and from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the North American Electric Reliability Corp. that electricity delivery would remain reliable. In a Senate-floor speech, he called the plan "Obamacare 2.0."
  • In a press release, Grimes campaign manager Jonathan Hurst called the bill inadequate and noted that Grimes said in January that the nation must "invest in clean coal technology, support coal and energy research, and keep foreign markets open for coal." He did not offer specifics, but said Grimes would "work with members of both parties to get Washington working for Kentucky," which he said McConnell "has lost sight of."
  • Joe Gerth of The Courier-Journal reports the reactions of Grimes and McConnell, in a text story and a two-minute video. He quotes University of Kentucky political scientist Stephen Voss as saying that the issue couldn't have arisen at a worse time for Grimes because "it wasn't necessarily clear" that McConnell's emphasis on the issue "would be justified. I mean, there really wasn't a coal issue that could become the focal point of the campaign, but the issuance of new regs allows it to be that focal point."
  • The report by Ryan Alessi of cn|2 includes a clip of McConnell answering Gerth's question at a May 23 press conference about evidence that "Coal makes you sick," a quip by Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid that McConnell often uses to portray Democrats as anti-coal. McConnell replied, "We're burning coal cleaner and cleaner and cleaner," and said the war is not just against coal, but all fossil fuels, posing threats of electricity shortages. "We all want a cleaner environment. I think America has made incredible strides toward a cleaner environment . . . but this is an economic disaster for us, and a power-supply disaster for a lot of the rest of the country."
  • McConnell spoke more than a week before announcement of the plan, which was not as tough as many in the coal industry had feared, Alicia Mundy and John W. Miller report for The Wall Street Journal: "The coal industry quickly and loudly criticized proposed new U.S. emissions rules for power plants, saying that the proposal was tougher than expected and posed a threat to the industry. But behind the scenes, some people in the industry said were relieved." Max Ehrenfreund of The Washington Post reports, "A note from J.P. Morgan largely dismisses the proposal, noting that the measures are not as stringent as had been expected, among both industry watchers and environmentalists."
  • Many national news reports have highlighted Grimes's opposition to the rules, which MSNBC contributor Goldie Taylor, a supporter of them, called "incredibly risky" for Democratic candidates and "a misstep" by the administration. "How the Democrats message around that really remains to be seen," she said this morning. Alexandra Jaffe of The Hill rounded up reaction.
  • "Obama’s decision to propose tougher limits on power-plant emissions poses a threat to Democrats amid the coal-rich mountainsides of Kentucky and to his party’s efforts to keep control of the U.S. Senate," John McCormick writes for Bloomberg News, quoting Bill Bissett of the Kentucky Coal Association: “The president seems willing to sacrifice Democrats for his legacy. Any linkage to the president in a coal-producing state is a tremendous liability.” McCormick's story focuses on Leslie County without noting that it is heavily Republican and quotes businessman C. Allen Muncy without noting that as county judge-executive in 1981 he was convicted of vote fraud.
  • On Politico, Edward-Isaac Dovere reports "White House aides say they didn’t spend a lot of time worrying about the Senate races where Democrats were going to come out bashing them. What they’re looking at in the White House is the Washington Post/ABC poll out Monday which showed wide support for the president’s climate efforts." The story also reveals that Kentucky's Steve Beshear was among the governors Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy called Sunday.
  • Joe Kirkland of Environment & Energy News recalls the beginning of "the fight over the future of the carbon-intensive U.S. electricity system," narrow House passage of a cap-and-trade bill in 2009. "By the time a decision was made by Senate leaders to drop the Senate's effort to cobble together a climate bill, the economy felt as if it had entered a long malaise. The seams that held together the U.S. financial system were stretched, and jobless numbers remained stubborn. Tea-party candidates were revving up their engines to go after big spenders in Congress, and oil tycoons and conservative think tanks ideologically opposed to responding to climate change spent [lots] of money to undermine scientific findings and shift public opinion. Conventional wisdom seemed to coalesce around inaction, even as scientists issued warnings about extreme weather resulting from rising concentrations of heat-trapping carbon in the atmosphere. Today . . . the economy is in much better shape. Public support for action appears stronger. A boom in domestic production has already accelerated the switch from coal to natural gas. But the idea of putting the federal government in charge of slashing emissions across a big, complex economy is still contentious." (Read more, subscription required)

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