Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called the Obama administration's rule to limit carbon emissions from power plants "a triumph of blind ideology over sound policy and honest compassion" that he said would put coal miners in his state out of jobs.
The Kentucky Republican slammed the Environmental Protection Agency rule, which was finalized Monday, as potentially illegal and said it would drive up energy costs. For Bluegrass State workers, that could mean unemployment, he said.
"These regulations would likely mean fewer jobs, shuttered power plants and higher electricity costs for families and businesses. I will not sit by while the White House takes aims at the lifeblood of our state's economy," McConnell said on the Senate floor.
McConnell has led the charge against the regulation. He has called on every state governor to avoid submitting state plans for complying with the EPA rule, due by September 2018, because he thinks the agency has exceeded its authority. McConnell also pledged to use the budget process and legislation to block the rule.
"This White House seems to want good politics, not good policy," McConnell said.
The power plant rule seeks to reduce U.S. electricity emissions 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030 in an effort to slow climate change, which most climate scientists say is primarily caused by humans burning greenhouse gas-emitting fossil fuels. Reaching the EPA target would require shifting the electric grid from coal, which supplies 39 percent of U.S. power, to renewable energy and natural gas and by lowering overall energy consumption through energy-efficiency measures.
Republicans and coal-state Democrats have said environmental regulations are the main culprit for the coal industry's woes. But employment in that sector has long been declining due to increased mechanization, coal that is becoming increasingly more difficult and expensive to extract, and, most recently, competition from cheap natural gas as a result of the U.S. shale energy boom.
President Obama noted the coal industry had been on the downswing before the rule was proposed. He prodded Congress to enact legislation he proposed that would provide new funding for training laid-off Appalachian coal miners and sending new dollars for economic development projects in the region.
Obama further defended the regulation as "realistic, achievable and still ambitious" and criticized "special interests and their allies in Congress" for making what he said were false claims about the rule's economic impact.
"They'll say this plan is a 'war on coal' just to scare up votes," Obama said. "Communities across America have been losing coal jobs for decades."