New York Times editorial
For all his partisan animus toward President Barack Obama, it is still shocking to see the Senate's majority leader, Mitch McConnell, urge the nation's governors to undermine the Obama administration's efforts to regulate power plant emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas responsible for global warming.
McConnell, a Kentucky Republican who seems to hold Obama personally responsible for what has been the decades long decline of coal jobs in his state, expressed his defiance in an op-ed article Wednesday in The Lexington Herald-Leader.
The administration has proposed regulations aimed at limiting emissions. McConnell urged the governors not to cooperate with a joint rule-making process aimed at developing final regulations under which Washington will set emissions targets while giving states flexibility to implement them.
Sabotaging this process, he says, will give the courts time to find the plan illegal or give the Senate time to figure out a way to block it. "Without your support," he said, the administration "won't be able to demonstrate the capacity to carry out such political extremism."
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 Obama hopes to present to the world in Paris in December, at the next climate summit.
In that sense, 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 senator's strategy may also turn out to be ineffective. Governors who follow his advice may not get the result they want, because, under time-honored environmental law, noncompliant states could face imposition of a blanket federal alternative that is not tailored to local conditions.
McConnell has insisted for months that Obama has been waging a "war on coal," of which the proposed power plant rules are only the latest manifestation. But the real war has been waged by the market and technology, most recently the shift to newly abundant supplies of natural gas. Across decades, extending back through the administration of Ronald Reagan, federal data show that Kentucky's mining jobs have steadily declined by more than 50 percent since 1983.
When McConnell was asked in December by The Associated Press whether the Senate had any obligation to address the growing threat from global warming, the Republican leader's response was woefully parochial: "Look, my first obligation is to protect my people, who are hurting as the result of what this administration is doing."