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Virginia GOP Hopes Opposing EPA Carbon Limits Will Be Political Winner

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Existing coal power plants like this one are not subject to carbon dioxide limits, affecting new plants instead.
Mark Plummer: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mdmarkus66/3187212839/
Existing coal power plants like this one are not subject to carbon dioxide limits, affecting new plants instead.

Republicans say a new Environmental Protection Agency rule will kill jobs in Virginia and they see it as a way to win November's election.

A new White House assessment on climate change paints a dire picture for coastal states like Virginia. Democratic Senator Tim Kaine says the writing is on the wall.

"Being vulnerable to sea level rises. That plus agricultural and forestry effects is every reason why we should be very concerned," Kaine says.

Still, many Republicans brush the report aside and question the role of humans in making the planet warmer. The White House has given up trying to convince skeptical lawmakers. Now, the EPA is readying a rule to drastically limit the amount of carbon new coal burning fire plants can emit. From his perch in Virginia coal country, Republican Morgan Griffith says it feels like the administration doesn't care about his constituents.

“Ask anybody who lives in the coal-producing regions of Southwest Virginia and they'll tell you there's a war on coal," Griffith says. "And they're the victims of it. They're the casualties."

Griffith would support Republican Senate candidate Ed Gillespie against Democratic Sen. Mark Warner anyway, but he and other Republicans are using energy policy to try and convince voters nationwide they should give Republicans control of the Senate this fall.

"If we have enough sensible folks on the other side of the aisle in both the House and the Senate we can stop it," Griffith says.

Griffith predicts broad economic consequences if the GOP doesn't regain control of the Senate.

"It will hurt industry — not just the coal industry, but industry in general. It will make electric rates go up and it hurts the American middle class," Griffith says.

But Northern Virginia Democratic Congressman Gerry Connolly says the GOP argument is a losing strategy. He says the American people are waking up and realize clean — and cooler — air is more important than keeping coal companies in business.

"Some of my Republican friends, when they criticize the EPA for being too active, what they really mean is they wish the EPA would go away," Connolly says.

The EPA doesn't seem to be going away anytime soon, but its new policies could be pushing some Democrats out of office. That is, if Republicans win this latest energy fight.

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