Moderate GOP senators form green coalition

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

Sen. Kelly AyotteKelly AyotteFive takeaways from Florida Senate debate Poll: Clinton up 9 on Trump in NH The Trail 2016: Comeback in the works? MORE (N.H.), Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderObama meets a crossroads for his healthcare law Music streamer Spotify joins Gillibrand’s push for paid family leave GOP senators avoid Trump questions on rigged election MORE (Tenn.), Mark KirkMark KirkEndangered GOP senator: I don't know for whom I'll vote California National Guard official: Congress knew about bonus repayments Great Lakes senators seek boost for maritime system MORE (Ill.) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamTrump on primary rivals who don't back him: 'I don't know how they live with themselves' The Trail 2016: Who is really winning? Graham: GOP Senate could rein in Clinton White House 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.

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.