Friday, October 10, 2014

McConnell targets CO2 rules, rejects U.S. taking the lead on climate change, and says scientists disagree

By Anthony Pendleton and Al Cross
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Sen. Mitch McConnell gave more specifics Friday of how Congress would attempt to limit Obama administration regulations if he and other Republicans gain control of the Senate. And he rejected the idea that the United States should take the lead on limiting carbon-dioxide emissions to fight climate change.

The Senate Republican leader told the crowd at a luncheon hosted by Commerce Lexington that he'll have Congress pass a budget if he becomes majority leader and the GOP gains control of the Senate. He added that they would tack onto appropriations bills that would include “directions” and “restrictions.” Referring to the restrictions, McConnell said, “Right at the top of my list is coal regulations.”

After his speech, McConnell said he meant the regulations that would limit carbon-dioxide emissions in an effort to fight climate change.

One of these proposed regulations is the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, which aims to reduce CO2 emissions 30 percent by 2030. Coal supporters oppose such regulations because it would, in effect, prohibit the construction of new coal-fired power plants using current technology.

McConnell has declined to give his opinions about climate change, though 97 percent of climate scientists published in peer-reviewed journals say the earth is warming and human activity is primarily responsible.

The campaign of Democratic nominee Alison Lundergan Grimes, who has said she believes in climate change and favors "a balanced approach" to it that would protect coal jobs, has criticized McConnell for not giving a definitive answer. Asked about that, McConnell said, "I have given a very definitive answer. I've said that whether or not this set of scientists or that set of scientists are correct is irrelevant."

McConnell said in his speech that the United States is the only country in the world trying to limit carbon emissions. “Everybody else has figured this out, except us,” he said.

McConnell tried to finish answering questions by saying, “The United States alone pursuing this crusade will have no impact on this mission, even if you thought this was an important mission.”

As he left, McConnell was asked if the nation with the world’s largest economy, the United States, shouldn’t take the first step in limiting carbon, he didn’t answer immediately, then said, “I’m not for taking it.”

Kentucky Coal Association President Bill Bissett said later that if the U.S. completely eliminated its use of coal, it would only reduce the world's greenhouse-gas emissions by about 3 percent.

McConnell said in his speech that the regulations would reduce the advantage of low-cost industrial power in Kentucky, which gets more than 90 percent of its electricity from coal. “The war on coal is not just a war on coal-producing counties, it’s a war on all of Kentucky,” he said.

McConnell was introduced at the luncheon by Kentucky’s leading coal operator, Joe Craft of Alliance Resource Partners. He said McConnell had led the fight for the coal industry in Congress, and noted that President Obama said last week that while he may not be on the ballot, all of his policies are.

Craft said the state and nation have suffered from the policies of Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, and “It’s time to stop them in their tracks. . . . For Kentucky to prosper, Mitch McConnell needs to be the next majority leader.”

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