Mitch McConnell's dangerous new climate extremism: "A travesty of responsible leadership"

The Senate Majority Leader feels a "deep responsibility" to stop the EPA from implementing its Clean Power Plan

Published March 20, 2015 2:09PM (EDT)

Mitch McConnell                              (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)
Mitch McConnell (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)

Mitch McConnell is going all in on his promise "do everything [he] can to try to stop" the EPA.

The Kentucky senator, who said last year that he feels a "deep responsibility" to thwarts the implementation of the agency's Clean Power Plan, is now reaching "far beyond....[his] official reach and authority" to do so, directly appealing to state governors to refuse to comply with them.

In a letter sent Thursday to the National Governors Association, McConnell wrote that he has "serious legal and policy concerns" regarding the proposed rule, which aims to cut emissions from new coal-fired power plants 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. Building off the argument he first laid out in an editorial earlier this month, he claims that the EPA is going far beyond its legal authority, and that the rule is likely to be struck down by the courts.

States that refuse to comply, he asserts, won't face legal consequences. He does note, though, that if they take that route, "the only recourse for the EPA is to develop and impose its own federal plan for that state," which doesn't sound like the best deal for them -- but it will, he argues, buy time for the courts and Congress to fight the rule.

McConnell's highly unusual plan is already attracting a ton of controversy: the New York Times' editorial board, earlier this month, called it "reckless" and "shocking," argued that the senator is unfairly blaming President Obama for what in actuality has been a decades-long decline in coal mining jobs in his state, and directly called him out for undermining climate action:

Mr. McConnell’s call to governors to sit on their hands is a travesty of responsible leadership. What he calls “extremism” is the administration’s eminently reasonable goal to reduce America’s greenhouse gas emissions 26 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. That pledge is the centerpiece of the climate strategy Mr. Obama hopes to present to the world in Paris in December, at the next climate summit. In that sense, Mr. McConnell’s defiance is more than the usual states’ rights rhetoric that Republicans have used to challenge other initiatives. It is an attack on this country’s credibility as a leader in the fight against climate change.

The White House, in response to McConnell's letter, didn't pull any punches, either. “Climate change is one of the most pressing challenges that we face, and instead of offering solutions, Sen. McConnell’s alternative is an inappropriate and unfounded attempt to dictate state decisions,” said White House spokesman Frank Benenati.

“While Sen. McConnell and the other climate deniers in Congress will do everything they can to block or hinder the administration’s progress on climate change, the administration is committed to moving forward to tackle climate change head on because science, history, and the American people are on our side."

By Lindsay Abrams

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Epa Power Plant Rule Sen. Mitch Mcconnell White House