Foes gird to fight Obama’s carbon-cutting plan
GOP officials, trade groups plan court challenges
WASHINGTON — Opponents of the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan prepared Monday for all-out war against the carbon-cutting regulation, blasting the measure publicly while accelerating behind-the-scenes efforts to stop its implementation.
On the day of the rule’s official adoption, key lawmakers and industry groups sharpened their rhetorical attacks against the measure and vowed to fight it in Congress and in the courts. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky stood before the Senate to declare his intention to ‘‘do everything I can to fight’’ the regulation, which is chiefly designed to reduce reliance on coal to generate power.
‘‘I will not sit by while the White House takes aim at the lifeblood of our state’s economy,’’ McConnell said.
The attacks came as other groups prepared to launch initiatives on the state and local level. In anticipation of the rule’s unveiling, a task force of the American Legislative Exchange Council — a conservative group funded in part by electricity producers and fossil-fuel interests — approved model legislation to be sent to state legislatures around the country.
The model bill would give state governments special authority to ‘‘expedite approval of resources to challenge the EPA’s Clean Power Plan,’’ according to a copy obtained by the Washington Post.
The regulation that is the focus of the attacks was formally adopted Monday in a White House ceremony attended by government officials and representatives of environmental groups and businesses that support the measure.
The Clean Power Plan, a key pillar of the administration’s climate agenda, seeks to dramatically reduce pollution from electricity generation for the next 15 years to lower levels of the greenhouses gases blamed for global warming.
President Obama, plugging the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulation in the ceremony in the White House’s East Room, said that there is ‘‘such a thing as being too late when it comes to climate change.’’
He became emotional in describing the earth as the ‘‘blue marble’’ in NASA photographs from space that ‘‘belongs to all of us.’’
‘‘I don’t want my grandkids to not be able to swim in Hawaii or climb a mountain or see a glacier because we didn’t do something about it,’’ he said. ‘‘That would be shameful of us. This is our moment to get something right.’’ He added: ‘‘There is no Plan B.’’
Obama sought to hit back against assertions that the measure would kill jobs in the coal industry and raise costs to consumers of electricity. ‘‘We’ve heard these same stale arguments before,’’ he said.
‘‘Coal states have been losing jobs for decades,’’ Obama said.
He said that mining industry workers would benefit from his health care and job retraining programs.
‘‘I want to help them, not use them as a partisan football,’’ the president said.
Kentucky has 15,000 people working in mining and logging, or less than 1 percent of the state’s workforce of nearly 1.9 million, according to federal labor statistics.
But coal companies and coal-burning utilities — expected to be the biggest losers under the regulation — were not swayed. The Ohio Coal Association, a trade group representing the state’s coal companies, called the carbon-cutting plan ‘‘radical’’ and predicted ‘‘all pain and no gain.’’ It said consumers would face higher electricity rates and the threat of disruptions to the power supply.
‘‘We will continue to make our voices heard and urge states and Congress to fight this administration and its overreaching, dangerous regulations,’’ Christian Palich, the associations’s president, said in a statement.
The effort by the American Legislative Exchange Council to fire up state-level resistance to the EPA’s plan was approved July 24 at a meeting in San Diego of the group’s Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force. Members representing some of the nation’s biggest utilities, oil and gas companies, and energy trade associations voted to support model legislation that brings states into the fight against the regulation.
The proposed legislation seeks to direct state attorneys general to join lawsuits against the EPA to prevent ‘‘unlawful and costly obligations from being imposed on states,’’ according to the copy obtained by the Post. It also calls for transferring money into a special fund set up by participating states to underwrite efforts to challenge unwanted environmental regulations. The money would come from state appropriations as well as ‘‘any gifts, grants and donations’’ from outside groups.
In a discussion before the vote, members of the group were advised to begin taking steps to comply with the regulation, even as they pursued lawsuits to block it.
‘‘Our folks think that submitting a [compliance] plan is a good way to go for a couple of reasons,’’ Todd Wynn, director of external affairs at the Edison Electric Institute, told the group, according to notes from the meeting. ‘‘For one thing, it doesn’t ruin your standing as far as litigation is concerned.’’
Wynn advised states not to boycott the rule entirely, as McConnell urged state governments to do in a letter to all 50 governors this year. ‘‘Putting something in the books so they can continue with the litigation strategy . . . is the right direction,’’ Wynn said.