- Associated Press - Saturday, June 7, 2014

ATLANTA (AP) - The Obama administration’s plan to reduce carbon emissions is likely to cause Georgia to evaluate its current energy supply but also could factor into two of the state’s biggest political races this year.

So far, Democrat Michelle Nunn is keeping her distance from the plan, offering a wait-and-see approach while underscoring the need to reduce carbon emissions as she campaigns for the state’s open Senate seat. Both Republicans in the Senate race have denounced the plan, saying the regulations are too burdensome.

Nunn said in an interview the plan needs further review to determine the effects on Georgia. She also said she wants to make sure the state gets credit for efforts already made to reduce emissions before she will support it. It’s another example of Nunn stopping short of embracing key Obama priorities as she looks to woo independent voters. She’s also questioned some aspects of the Affordable Care Act and urged support for the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

“There has been a significant amount of work done by Georgia Power and the state of Georgia around ensuring that we are transitioning to cleaner energy and more renewable resources,” Nunn said. “In the coming weeks, we’ll have a better sense of what the actual circumstances will be as it relates to the regulations and requirements.”

Meanwhile, Republicans blasted the administration’s policy as an approach that will only escalate energy costs for hard-working Americans. And the state GOP continues to make the argument Nunn, if elected, would be a loyal ally of President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

“She is a staunch supporter of President Obama and Harry Reid’s efforts to enact job-killing energy policies that will put more Georgians in the unemployment line and drive up energy prices for middle-class families,” said Leslie Shedd with Georgia Victory, a division of the state GOP.

Statistics show Georgia relies on coal to produce just under a third of the state’s electricity, although that will change when two new nuclear reactors under construction become operational in a few years.

Under guidelines issued June 2, Georgia would need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 44 percent by 2030. Federal officials said Georgia will have flexibility in determining how to reach that mark. It could work with other states to set up programs that cap the amount of emissions but allow power companies to trade emissions permits with each other. The Georgia target is on the higher end of a proposal that seeks a reduction of 30 percent nationwide by 2030.

In the Senate race, Republicans Jack Kingston and David Perdue will meet in a July 22 runoff. The winner will face Nunn in November in the nationally watched race, one of a dozen or so that could help determine control of that chamber.

Both joined Georgia’s current Sens. Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss, also Republicans, in denouncing the plan. Nunn, Kingston and Perdue are vying for Chambliss’ seat after the senator announced plans to retire at the end of the year.

“This ideologically-driven policy will have devastating and disastrous results for Georgia by artificially raising the costs of nearly everything, destroying good private-sector jobs, and hindering the kind of economic growth our state needs to improve the lives of each and every Georgian,” said Kingston, a congressman from Savannah.

“These are the kind of shortsighted regulations that ultimately burden families and businesses at a time when they can least afford it,” said Perdue’s spokesman Derrick Dickey. Perdue is a former CEO at Reebok and Dollar General.

Meanwhile, the issue could also flare up in Georgia’s governor’s race. Democrat Jason Carter said in a statement that he also wants to make sure Georgia gets credit for making progress in reducing pollution.

“Our kids and future generations deserve a clean and healthy environment, so we need to continue promoting clean energy like solar and wind as I have done in a bipartisan way in the Senate,” said Carter, a state senator from Atlanta.

Gov. Nathan Deal, who is seeking his second term, offered a more measured response than his fellow Republicans and also praised the state’s energy providers for taking steps to reduce emissions.

“I think we should all be concerned about pollution and emissions, and we have to balance that of course with keeping ourselves a competitive society from an economic standpoint,” Deal said. “That is going to continue, I think, to be the challenge that we face.”


Follow Christina Almeida Cassidy on Twitter: https://twitter.com/AP_Christina.

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