Moderate GOP senators form green coalition

Moderate GOP senators form green coalition

Four centrist Senate Republicans are banding together to call for policies to protect the environment.

Sen. Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteFormer Arizona senator to shepherd Supreme Court nominee through confirmation process Shut the back door to America's opioid epidemic Heitkamp ad highlights record as Senate race heats up MORE (N.H.), Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderSens introduce bipartisan bill matching Zinke proposed maintenance backlog fix Supreme Court vacancy throws Senate battle into chaos Overnight Health Care: Anti-abortion groups see chance to overturn Roe v. Wade with Kennedy retirement | HHS watchdog to probe detention center conditions | VA pick vows to oppose privatization MORE (Tenn.), Mark KirkMark Steven KirkThis week: Trump heads to Capitol Hill Trump attending Senate GOP lunch Tuesday High stakes as Trump heads to Hill MORE (Ill.) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamOvernight Health Care: Watchdog finds Tom Price improperly used funds on flights | Ex-Novartis CEO sent drug pricing proposal to Cohen | HHS staffers depart after controversial social media posts HHS staffers depart after controversial social media posts: report Senate takes symbolic shot at Trump tariffs MORE (R-S.C.) describe the group as a loose coalition that will meet regularly to come up with Republican pro-environment policies and enlist more GOP senators to support them.

The group includes two senators in Ayotte and Kirk who face tough reelection races next year in states won by President Obama in 2012. Their races will help determine which party has the Senate majority in 2017.

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Each of the members of the group is on record as agreeing with the scientific consensus that human activity causes climate change, something very few GOP lawmakers endorse.

And while only Ayotte supports President Obama’s carbon rule for power plants, all four of the senators say they are concerned that the wrong climate policies could hurt the economy and jobs.

The group’s formation was first reported by Politico.

“The Energy and Environment Working Group will be a way for us to bring people together and start an ongoing conversation about these topics — like how we can best protect our environment and climate, pursue common sense and market-based reforms to grow our economy, and promote cleaner energy production,” Ayotte said in a statement.

Graham, who is running for president and has stood out as the most climate-focused candidate among the GOP field, said, “It is possible to produce a safe, clean environment, and create new well-paying jobs for Americans of all generations.”

Liz Johnson, a spokeswoman for Ayotte, said forming the coalition is part of an effort to prioritize issues such as conservation funding and energy efficiency among Republicans.

“This is still in the early stages, so there’s no set schedule yet, but the group will meet periodically to talk about ways to build support for protecting the environment and climate and promoting cleaner energy production while also helping the economy,” she said.

The coalition’s founding follows an effort by 11 moderate House Republicans in September to get their conference on board recognizing human-caused climate and to work toward Republican policies to address it.