WASHINGTON — In an unusual move, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is calling on states to ignore a directive from the Obama administration to cut greenhouse gas pollution from coal-fired power plants.
“[T]he fact is, it is the EPA that is failing to comply with the law here,” McConnell wrote in a Thursday letter to the National Governors Association, saying the administration’s proposed rule requiring states to cut emissions by making power plants more efficient goes “far beyond its legal authority.”
He assured governors that the EPA was “overreaching” and that they would be on firm legal footing by refusing to comply.
“This proposed plan is already on shake legal grounds, will be extremely burdensome and costly, and will not seriously address the global environmental concerns that are frequently raised to justify it,” he wrote.
Brian Deese, senior adviser to President Barack Obama, condemned McConnell’s move on Friday as out of bounds and vowed that the EPA wouldn’t be deterred in implementing the rule, which it said was justified under the Clean Air Act.
“What you have is the Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, going way outside the bounds of the position he was elected to,” Deese said at a breakfast for reporters hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.
He said McConnell should spend “less time trying to lecture states about what they should be doing” and “more time trying to actually get some constructive things in Congress — for example, he could confirm a highly qualified attorney who’s been sitting out there for [more than a hundred] days.”
The debate over coal and climate change is a deeply contentious issue between Obama, who is working to secure a robust environmental legacy with executive actions, and McConnell, who is protective of his state’s large coal industry.
Deese said the issue is an example of the White House taking affirmative steps to solve problems while Republicans respond with a “responsive, defensive posture.” He added, “this rule is grounded in allowing states flexibility to craft their own plans.”