Op­po­si­tion to Green New Deal comes as McCon­nell backs coal

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - News - BY LES­LEY CLARK [email protected]­clatchydc.com Les­ley Clark: 202-383- 6054, @les­l­eyclark

Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell wants to put Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates in an un­com­fort­able po­si­tion by forc­ing them to vote on the con­tro­ver­sial Green New Deal be­ing pitched by ris­ing Demo­cratic star Rep. Alexan­dria Oca­sio-Cortez.

But he also wants to pro­mote his own longheld sup­port for not-so-green mea­sures.

The Ken­tucky Repub­li­can rou­tinely ac­cused for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama of wag­ing a “war on coal” for im­pos­ing clean air stan­dards on ag­ing power plants.

And ear­lier last week, McCon­nell urged the Ten­nessee Val­ley Au­thor­ity to keep open a coal­fired Ken­tucky power plant that the util­ity deemed un­re­li­able and too ex­pen­sive to re­pair.

“Ken­tuck­ians strongly op­pose mov­ing away from coal,” McCon­nell said in a video ad­dress to the util­ity that re­jected his pitch Thurs­day, say­ing it wasn’t eco­nom­i­cally fea­si­ble to keep op­er­at­ing the fi­nal burner at the Par­adise plant in Muh­len­berg County.

“Coal has helped fuel our coun­try’s great­ness and it needs to be part of our en­ergy fu­ture,” McCon­nell said.

The Green New Deal is a sweep­ing con­gres­sional res­o­lu­tion with few de­tails but am­bi­tious goals that aim to com­bat the ef­fects of cli­mate change. While it doesn’t men­tion coal, or oil and gas, it calls for meet­ing 100 per­cent of the power de­mand in the U.S. “through clean, re­new­able, and zero-emis­sion en­ergy sources.” It also calls for zero-emis­sion ve­hi­cles and man­u­fac­tur­ing.

While Ken­tucky is the third-lead­ing state for coal pro­duc­tion, the state has lost coal jobs in re­cent years, in part be­cause the state doesn’t have as much met­al­lur­gi­cal coal, used in steel mak­ing, as neigh­bor­ing West Vir­ginia. The num­ber of jobs in Ken­tucky dropped to a record low of just over to 6,400 in 2018.

The loss of jobs, along with coal’s his­tory in the state, leaves many law­mak­ers wary of what they see as overly ag­gres­sive ef­forts to com­bat cli­mate change. They’re ea­ger to shield the coal in­dus­try from fur­ther de­cline and to aid min­ers and their fam­i­lies.

In the Se­nate, McCon­nell has de­rided “show votes” that won’t clear the cham­ber, but last week he sped up the process to get the Democrats’ cli­mate change mea­sure to a vote, in­vok­ing the Se­nate rule that al­lows leg­is­la­tion to be brought di­rectly to the Se­nate floor with­out com­mit­tee con­sid­er­a­tion.

““We’ll give every­body an op­por­tu­nity to go on record and see how they feel about the Green New Deal,” McCon­nell said..

Democrats howled, with Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York ac­cus­ing McCon­nell of a “cheap, cyn­i­cal ploy.”

Repub­li­cans have barely con­tained their glee about a pro­posal the Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee calls a “long so­cial­ist wish-list.” Sen. John Bar­rasso, RWy­oming, whose state is a ma­jor coal pro­ducer, called it a “raw deal for the Amer­i­can pub­lic” forged by a Demo­cratic party that he said has taken a “very hard left turn.”

Bar­rasso warned the leg­is­la­tion would raise taxes and force peo­ple in the en­ergy in­dus­try out of work and sug­gested it’s al­ready been “rub­ber stamped” by the Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates.

Be­cause the bill of­fers a sweep­ing out­line to re­duce the use of oil and gas with­out con­crete de­tails, vot­ing for the mat­ter could open up Democrats to charges that they sup­port mea­sures like ban­ning air travel, as Repub­li­cans have threat­ened. And it could fur­ther the di­vi­sions be­tween Democrats from more con­ser­va­tive states that Trump won and pro­gres­sive Demo­cratic ac­tivists who have em­braced the pro­posal.

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