GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Environmentalists have labeled Republican U.S. Senate candidate Terri Lynn Land as a “climate change denier.” They believe the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan proposal that was released June 2 will give them new torque to tighten their green vise on the Republican running to replace Carl Levin (D-Mich.) in the Senate.
The NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) Action Fund and the Sierra Club have endorsed Land’s opponent, Rep. Gary Peters (D-Mich.). The NRDC Action Fund is raising money for the Democrat.
Mike Berkowitz, the legislation and political director for the Sierra Club-Michigan, called Peters a “climate champion who has already been attacked by Americans for Prosperity.”
Scott Hagerstrom, the executive director of Americans for Prosperity-Michigan, said Berkowitz is right.
“We have thousands of volunteers making phone calls and doing the doors, and the president’s climate change tax that he is implanting through the EPA is definitely an issue we are integrating into the messaging.”
That is one reason Berkowitz believes Michigan will be a key state for the Obama administration if it is to win support for the EPA carbon plan.
“The other is we have some of the nation’s dirtiest, oldest power plants in the nation,” he said.
Michigan is not the only state where climate change has become a leading campaign issue. The EPA’s Clean Power Plan has pushed it to the forefront in states like West Virginia and Kentucky, where coal is king.
Still in Michigan, the rhetoric has become red hot.
“She (Terri Lynn Land) has a lot to answer for in the context of her denialism. On This Week last weekend, even the National Mining Association would not cop to being a (climate change) denier,” said Heather Taylor-Miesle, the director of the NRDC Action Fund.
“Terri Lynn Land is such a radical she is out of step even farther than the National Mining Association.”
Land’s Senate campaign spokeswoman, Heather Swift, said nothing could be further from the truth. Swift said Land does believe climate change is real.
“Does she believe it could be the fault of humans? It could be,” Swift told The Detroit News in May. “But every time Congressman Peters votes to kill one more source of affordable and available energy, he is telling a struggling Michigan family to go without a good-paying job.”
Land continued that theme June 2 as she issued a statement promising to fight the EPA Clean Power Plan.
“My top priority is Michigan jobs,” Land said. “Today, President Obama released an enormous regulatory attack on coal, which produces 54 percent of Michigan’s electricity.”
Land cited a Republican National Committee (RNC) study that showed the new EPA rule could cost 224,000 American jobs, shrink the U.S. economy by $50 billion a year, and increase monthly electric bills for families and manufacturers for the next 15 years.
Michigan environmentalists, however, spent the day of the EPA plan’s announcement voicing their support for it, for Peters and their disgust with Terri Lynn Land.
Because of his support for Pres. Obama’s environmental program, the NRDC Action Fund has been raising money for Peters.
They won’t be campaigning or doing any issue-oriented campaigning for him, but Taylor-Miesle said the issue of climate change is “a great opportunity” for the Democrat from metro Detroit.
In a race as tight as the contest between Land and Peters — latest polling shows Peters in the lead by a little over the 4 point margin of error — an emotional issue like climate change could make just enough of a difference to mean victory for Peters and defeat for Land.
Taylor-Miesle wrote a call to action for environmentalists in her blog on the Huffington Post: “The best way to appeal to voters on climate change is to be early, loud, and local. In other words, get out front of the issue before your opponent does, talk about the issue often, and connect the dots between climate change and your home state.”
Peters had not issued a statement on the EPA Clean Power Plan as this article was being written. But his fellow Democrats in Kentucky and West Virginia spoke out clearly against it as soon as the EPA proposal was announced.
“President Obama’s new EPA rule is more proof that Washington isn’t working for Kentucky,” said Alison Lundergan Grimes, who is running against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) in Kentucky.
“Coal keeps the lights on in the Commonwealth,” she continued, “providing a way for thousands of Kentuckians to put food on their tables. When I’m in the U.S. Senate, I will fiercely oppose the president’s attack on Kentucky’s coal industry because protecting our jobs will be my number one priority.”
Natalie Tennant, a Democrat running for the Senate seat being vacated by Jay Rockefeller (D) in West Virginia, who was an Obama delegate at the 2012 Democratic Party convention, is also opposing the EPA proposal. Tennant wants incentives to help bring affordable advanced coal technology to market.
Tennant promised at the beginning of the month to unveil and campaign on a broad “Coal and Energy Jobs Agenda.”
“I will stand up to President Obama, Gina McCarthy, and anyone else who tries to undermine our coal jobs. Washington bureaucrats need to understand, these are not numbers on a balance sheet, they are real people with families to feed,” Tennant said.
“I refuse to accept that we have to choose between clean air and good-paying jobs when I know West Virginia can lead the way in producing technology that does both.”
Almost to the minute that the EPA plan was announced, one of Tennant’s fellow West Virginia Democrats, Rep. Nick J. Rahall, also lined up against Pres. Obama.
“We will introduce bipartisan legislation that will prevent these disastrous new rules from wreaking havoc on our economy in West Virginia,” said Rahall. “There is a right way and a wrong way of doing things and the Obama administration has got it wrong once again.”
If there was ever an issue that raised the specter of uniting establishment and Tea Party Republicans across the nation it is this carbon proposal.
The GOP across the nation is calling the EPA plan a “war on coal,” while Land coined her own phrase, describing the proposal she said was “giant and costly” as “a war on Michigan.”
“I will fight this proposal at every turn in the U.S. Senate and call on Congressman Peters to oppose these regulations instead of selling out Michigan jobs for his radical environmental agenda and the support of the California billionaire (Tom Steyer) who is bankrolling his campaign.”