Senate Dems advise governors against ‘just say no’ push 

Source: Jean Chemnick, E&E reporter • Posted: Wednesday, April 15, 2015

A cadre of liberal Senate Democrats yesterday sought to counter Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) recent advice to states, warning governors that choosing not to comply with U.S. EPA’s Clean Power Plan would limit their options.

The group led by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) cautioned in an open letter to the National Governors Association that the “just say no” strategy would put states “in defiance of the climate change laws and regulations of the United States government.”

McConnell has touted the strategy in a recent op-ed and letter to governors (E&E Daily, March 20).

“Before you take advice about climate change from Sen. McConnell please consider first what so many knowledgeable voices from the Bluegrass State are saying about climate change, and second how failing to act gives up your state’s right to set its own course of action toward a clean energy future,” they wrote.

Outgoing Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear’s (D) administration acknowledges climate change and has signaled it wants to submit a state implementation plan, they noted. The state’s Energy and Environment Cabinet is preparing an “80 percent” plan — or set of recommendations — on how the next administration can navigate a state law limiting compliance options in order to produce an approvable SIP (Greenwire, March 4).

Whitehouse and his colleagues noted that the state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources acknowledges climate science, and five of its largest cities have signed the U.S. Mayors’ Climate Protection agreement to act to address warming.

“Even fossil fuel companies get it in Kentucky,” the senators said, pointing to Columbia Gas of Kentucky’s endorsement on its website of “reasonable policies addressing climate change.”

The company’s description of what constitutes a “reasonable policy” may be seen to exclude the Clean Power Plan, however. The website continues that such a policy “must be applicable to all sources of greenhouse gas and be realistically achievable and consistent with projected availability of commercial technology.” The EPA rule applies only to the utility sector. It also advocates against “undue increases in energy costs to any particular regions or groups of consumers,” and deems natural gas to be a boon to the environment.

The EPA rule would promote gas use. Conspicuously absent from the senators’ letter is any mention of Kentucky’s historically important coal industry, which would not fare as well. EPA estimates that coal-fired generation would make up 30 percent of the energy mix in 2030, compared with the approximately 40 percent share it has today. Kentucky derives upward of 90 percent of its power from coal.

Whitehouse was joined on the letter by Democratic Sens. Barbara Boxer of California, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Al Franken of Minnesota, as well as independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont.