FRANKFORT — Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo called President Barack Obama's plan to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from existing coal-fired power plants "a dumb-ass policy" Wednesday, highlighting the political difficulties the plan has created for Kentucky Democrats.
His comments to reporters came as Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes launched a radio ad criticizing the Democratic president's plan as "pie-in-the-sky regulations that are impossible to achieve." Meanwhile, an issues advocacy group run by a former aide to U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell began airing a television ad that says Grimes "talks tough now" even though she previously endorsed Obama's re-election bid.
Stumbo, a Democrat from the coalfields of Floyd County, said the U.S. Congress, not the Obama administration, should make major decisions on energy policy.
"Coal is our most abundant resource in this country," Stumbo said. "You can't formulate an energy policy for a growing country like ours if you are not going to consider as part of that solution your most abundant resource.
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"It doesn't make any sense at all. It was a dumb-ass thing to do, and you can quote me."
Stumbo said carbon pollution is "a global problem" that shouldn't be fixed "on the backs of Americans." Kentuckians shouldn't be forced to pay more for electricity or lose their jobs "because of a dumb-ass policy," he said.
Senate President Robert Stivers, a Republican from coal-producing Clay County, said he agreed with Stumbo's assessment of the proposed regulations.
Their comments came during a question-and-answer session with reporters after a monthly meeting of state legislative leaders.
Although he is upset by the proposed regulations, Stumbo said he was not concerned that the issue might hurt Grimes or Democrats running for state House seats this fall. Instead, he lay blame for "this total demise" of the coal industry on McConnell's inability to reach a legislative compromise with Democrats on energy issues.
"If I had been U.S. senator, I would have made a deal with the president," he said.
In Grimes' 60-second radio ad, which the campaign said is running in Eastern and Western Kentucky, she speaks directly to Obama.
"It's clear you have no idea how this effects Kentucky," says Grimes, who goes on to predict that the regulations will cause electricity rate increases, power shortages and job losses.
Meanwhile, the Kentucky Opportunity Coalition, which is classified by the IRS as a 501(c)4 group that cannot run election ads as its primary function, released a TV ad that says Obama is "determined to destroy coal and to elect liberals like Alison Grimes."
It claims Grimes' campaign is "financed by Obama's anti-coal moneymen."
Grimes is scheduled to attend a fundraiser Thursday with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who on Wednesday blocked McConnell's "Coal Country Protection Act."
McConnell sought unanimous consent to pass the proposal, which would stop the Obama administration from implementing carbon emission limits until it certifies that the regulations would not reduce jobs or increase electricity rates, among other things.
The Kentucky Coal Association backed the legislation, but the Grimes campaign said it did not go far enough. In addition to reigning in "overburdensome regulations," Grimes called for more investment in technology to burn coal cleaner and increased efforts to keep foreign markets open to U.S. coal.
McConnell's campaign dismissed Grimes' comments as "insulting."
"It is a fact that Alison Lundergan Grimes lined up as a delegate behind Barack Obama after he announced he would wage a war on coal and said nothing as thousands of Kentuckians lost their jobs," said McConnell spokeswoman Allison Moore in a statement. "Her belated concern about the war on coal now that she's a candidate, after helping to ensure it by backing Obama, is insulting and transparently political."