- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Wednesday blocked the first legislative attempt by Republicans to derail President Obama’s proposed environmental rules that threaten to put coal-fired power plants out of business.

Mr. Reid, Nevada Democrat, only had to voice an objection to defeat the bill by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican. The move nevertheless marked the first shot in a likely protracted battle in Congress and on the campaign trails this year over what critics call Mr. Obama’s “war on coal.”

Mr. McConnell requested unanimous consent on the Senate floor of his Coal Country Protection Act two days after the Environmental Protection Agency announced the proposed rule to cut carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by 30 percent over 15 years.

SEE ALSO: New EPA carbon limits further natural gas boom at expense of coal

“President Obama’s new energy regulations would ship middle-class jobs overseas, splinter our manufacturing base and boost energy costs for struggling families,” Mr. McConnell said.

His bill had virtually no chance of passing by unanimous consent in the Democrat-run chamber.

“The rule will not become effective for a long time,” Mr. Reid said. “I know the importance of this issue, and I’ll be as cooperative as I feel is appropriate with the Republican leader. But at this time, I object.”

SEE ALSO: Kentucky’s Grimes takes swing at Obama’s new coal rules

Environmentalists hailed the proposed regulatory scheme to reduce greenhouse gases, which are blamed for contributing to climate change. Business groups and the coal industry warned that the rules would cause job losses, power outages and massive increases in Americans’ electric bills.

In Kentucky, the nation’s third-largest producer of coal, the EPA proposal is a top campaign issue for Mr. McConnell and Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes.

The rules also would be an obstacle for Senate Democrats in several states — including North Carolina, Louisiana and Arkansas — that could decide whether their party retains majority control of the chamber after this year’s elections.

After Mr. McConnell’s bill failed, the Grimes campaign said the five-term incumbent has not done enough to help Kentucky’s coal industry.

“While it is heartening Mitch McConnell turns his eye to coal country every six years to get re-elected, the senior senator’s new bill does not go far enough and is inadequate,” said Grimes campaign manager Jonathan Hurst.

The McConnell campaign countered by citing the “full support” for the bill from the Kentucky Coal Association.

The attack was part of a daylong exchange of barbs as the candidates jockeyed to be the fiercest opponent of Mr. Obama’s agenda to fight climate change.

Ms. Grimes, the Kentucky secretary of state, has labored to distance herself from Mr. Obama and his energy policies, which are unpopular in Kentucky, and to refute Mr. McConnell’s charge that she has supported the Democratic Party’s anti-coal agenda.

Her campaign began airing a radio ad Wednesday in which Ms. Grimes says: “I have a message for President Obama.

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