By Laura Barron-Lopez - 06/12/14 01:53 PM EDT
Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) on Thursday slammed President Obama's climate change policies, arguing they would "drive a stake through the heart of coal."
Heitkamp warned representatives from the natural gas industry that they will be the next regulatory target once the administration enacts new limits on carbon pollution from power plants.
The comment elicited nods of agreement from the crowd, along with some shocked expressions.
Natural gas, the nation's second-largest energy source, has been touted by Obama as the crucial "bridge fuel" that the U.S. needs to transition from fossil fuels to carbon-free alternatives.
"We've got huge regulatory pressure on coal combined with lower natural gas prices causing fuel switching," Heitkamp said. "So we need a strategy that works for the American people."
Heitkamp's comments come nearly a week after the administration unveiled its key climate policy, aiming to cut carbon dioxide from existing power plants 30 percent by 2030.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Gina McCarthy began her rollout campaign of the rules this week.
At a coal research conference earlier Thursday, Heitkamp vowed that coal would not die.
"In my lifetime we will not transition away from coal," Heitkamp said, despite reports from the EPA that the new rules will lead to a decrease in energy generation from coal.
By 2030, the EPA expects electricity generation from coal to drop from 37 percent to roughly 30 percent.