Coal-state Democratic candidates are lashing out at President Obama for new Environmental Protection Agency emissions standards that would squeeze the coal industry.
West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant and Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, both Democrats running for Senate in their respective states, issued stern statements slamming the president for allowing the EPA standards, which would restrict emissions on future power plants, to go forward.
She added that she's "not afraid to take on leaders in my own party to protect West Virginia's coal industry."
Lundergan Grimes said she was "disappointed" at the ruling.
"After calling on the President to do the right thing, I am deeply disappointed in today’s EPA ruling. Yet again President Obama's administration has taken direct aim at Kentucky jobs," she said.
In the same statement, however, Lundergan Grimes sought to lay the blame on incumbent Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), charging that the "dysfunction in Senator McConnell's Washington continues to fail Kentucky families."
Opponents say the new rules amount to a de facto ban on new coal plants, as the technology needed to comply with the standards isn't commercially available. The EPA and climate advocates disagree, and argue coal is on the decline largely because of decreased demand rather than government regulations.
But the Obama administration's climate policy could become problematic for the two candidates, both of whom are running in states where coal production plays a central role in the economy.
Republicans have been working all week to tie both candidates to Obama's policies, which they say amount to a "war on coal."
The National Republican Senatorial Committee hammered both Grimes and Tennant for the EPA rules, along with incumbent Democratic senators in Alaska, North Carolina and Louisiana and Reps. Gary Peters (D), running in Michigan's Senate race, and Bruce Braley (D), running in Iowa.
"It is plainly evident that electing Alison Lundergan Grimes would ensure that a sworn enemy of coal sets the agenda instead of a Kentuckian. And it will come as even less of a surprise when Grimes continues to loyally support the Obama administration who plans to impose a radical new EPA proposal," reads the release targeting Lundergan Grimes.
She has taken particular criticism from Republicans for receiving fundraising help from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), referred to by the NRSC as the "sworn enemy of coal," who has previously said "coal makes us sick."
Republicans argue that she's beholden to Reid and other Democratic leaders, and her association with him will make it impossible for her to stand up to her party on issues like Obama's climate policy.
McConnell spent much of the week focused on the EPA standards, calling them the latest “administration salvo in its never ending war on coal" in a floor speech during which he called for a vote on a bill he introduced to prevent the rules from taking effect. Reid blocked the bill but acknowledged coal's importance to Kentucky.
Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, the likely Republican nominee for Senate in West Virginia, also introduced a bill to prevent the emissions standards from taking effect, and in a statement called them "yet another sign that this Administration simply doesn’t care about ... harming the very fabric of communities across our state."