Politics & the New EPA Rule

Jun 9, 2014

The E-P-A’s new rule to drastically curb carbon pollution is now playing a key role in the Virginia Senate race.

It was no secret here at the Capitol the E-P-A was getting ready to roll out its new rule to limit carbon emissions. But that doesn't mean incumbent Democratic Senator Mark Warner is ready to take a stance. "I'm still looking at - I still think we need to look at it. I'm glad they're giving 120 days for the comment because it's obviously very complicated and got huge implications."

"Now, other states like Maryland seems a little better situated because they've been a part of that compact in the Northeast. Do you think Virginia's been a little slow at this and gets punished because of that?"

"The first days of review what I requested of the administration was to give appropriate time for comment, a full 120 days, rather than 60 days. They did that, and that's just the beginning of the process," said Warner.

If you talk with Warner’s opponent in the general election, you hear a much different tune. Republican challenger Ed Gillespie, a former advisor to President George W. Bush, says Warner’s just using the public comment period for cover.

"It’s typical of Senator Warner. He's unwilling to stand up for our coal miners in Virginia the way I would as senator, and I'll stand up not only for those miners but for their families and the small businesses that rely on them and also for everybody who pays an electric bill."

Gillespie says it’s hard for Warner to make up his mind on this rule that would cut carbon emissions from new coal fired power plants by 30% because he’s been supportive of the president’s climate change agenda in the past.  "It's a policy consistent with his policy, so it's difficult for him to come out."

Virginia Democratic Senator Tim Kaine says not so fast. He says there’s a lot in the new rule for policy makers like him and Warner to wade through.   "You know, the extended comment period is going to be helpful in really fleshing out nationally these ramifications. But as I look at the ramifications for Virginia I don't think it's, the sky is falling."

Kaine says he thinks the draft document will evolve as average voters, businesses and policy makers study the document and let the EPA know of potential unforeseen impacts.  "I suspect you're going to see pretty heavy public comment, and that that public comment will lead to additional adjustments. We certainly are going to not be bashful about commenting."

Kaine adds that it’s good for Virginia to start reducing its dependence on coal – even if it does support much of the economy in Southwest Virginia.

"And then I happen to live in a state that not only has, you know, coal companies. I live in a state where one-point-six million people in Hampton Roads -- it's the second most vulnerable community in the United States to sea-level rise."

But Virginia Republican Congressman Morgan Griffith sees it differently. He says the new EPA rule  will put Virginians out of work. "This is about jobs and about electric rates and it's not just about the coal miners in my district but it's about everybody's job. This could be devastating. We'll just have to see, but it could be devastating to the American economy."

Griffith says the new EPA rule will also hurt U-S competitiveness because countries like China and India are putting new coal fired power plants online without the new restrictions being called for by the Obama Administration.  

“What happens is the rest of the world looks at it and says, here's an opportunity for us to pick the carcass of the American economy.”

With the debate over so-called Obamacare taking a backseat of late, Republicans are honing in on energy policy ahead of November. And it's already dividing a Democratic Party that's scrambling to hold onto one chamber of Congress.