Udall defends EPA climate change rules as GOP readies attacks

DENVER — Colorado Sen. Mark Udall was the first vulnerable senate Democrat Monday to stick his neck out in support of the Obama administration’s proposed regulations aimed at curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

Udall, a conservationist whose wife is the former director of the Sierra Club, heralded the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposals to give states an array of options by which to meet a broader goal of reducing carbon pollution by 30 percent by the year 2030.

“Coloradans have seen first-hand the harmful effects of climate change, including severe drought, record wildfires and reduced snowpack,” Udall said in a statement Monday. “Coloradans also have led the nation over the past decade in confronting this challenge and showing how we can reduce carbon emissions, protect our land, water and air, and strengthen our economy.”

As FOX31 Denver pointed out Sunday, Colorado has been pursuing a reduction in carbon pollution since 2010, when state lawmakers approved the Clean Air, Clean Jobs Act, which mandated the conversion of existing coal-fired power plants to natural gas — one of the new options the government is encouraging other states to pursue.

“The EPA’s draft rule is a good start, and I will fight to ensure it complements the work we have already done in Colorado and provides states the flexibility they need to make it successful,” Udall said.

Udall’s counterpart, Sen. Michael Bennet, also released a statement supporting the new rules.

“I support the President’s action to curb dangerous carbon pollution, because Colorado is already experiencing the negative effects of a changing climate,” Bennet said. “The constant threat of wildfire, prolonged drought that imperils our $40 billion agriculture industry, and our shortened winters (and ski season) and longer summers all demand action. Fortunately, Colorado is already well-positioned to meet these carbon reduction targets.”

Republicans, meanwhile, are portraying the proposal as part of a “war on coal”, attacking vulnerable Senate Democrats and Democratic candidates for supporting it.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee will launch robo-calls on Tuesday in four states, including Colorado where it will be going after Udall.

The robocall alleges that Obama’s “radical energy plan…would make electricity rates skyrocket. Even the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said that the new EPA regulations will increase electricity prices and kill thousands of jobs.

“It’s not surprising Mark Udall stands by Obama’s costly regulations, because he lobbied other senators to support a radical cap-and-trade plan that would have increased Colorado energy prices and hurt jobs,” the call continues. “Tell Mark Udall higher electricity costs and new EPA regulations, just don’t make sense for Colorado.”

Congressman Cory Gardner, Udall’s opponent, has yet to issue a statement on the rules.

But Republicans in other states offered a preview of the kinds of attacks Udall can expect.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said in a statement through his congressional office that the EPA rule is “a dagger in the heart of the American middle class, and to representative Democracy itself.”

“Already reeling from the painful effects of Obamacare, the American people are now being told they have to shoulder the burdens of the President’s latest ‘solution’ in the form of higher costs, fewer jobs, and a less reliable energy grid,” McConnell said. “The fact that the President plans to do all this through an end-run around Congress only highlights his contempt for the wishes of the public and a system of government that was devised precisely to restrain an action like today’s.”

Udall, meanwhile, is attacking Gardner as a climate-change denier, firing off a press release cataloging a slew of Gardner’s votes and statements that reflect his view that climate change isn’t human-caused, as 97 percent of scientists believe it to be.

“Droughts, wildfires, floods, heat waves and storms are driving up the price of groceries, hurting our economy and costing our state billions each year. Gardner’s stubborn refusal to acknowledge the facts of climate change is out-of-touch with mainstream Coloradans and will put our state at risk,” said Udall’s spokesman, Chris Harris.