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Obama Climate Change Agenda May Face States' Resistance

06/27/2013 05:56 pm ET
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WASHINGTON--President Barack Obama’s new push against climate change may resistance from Republican-led state governments.

Obama on Tuesday announced his long-term climate change plan that will include regulations on coal-fired power plants.

Some states are likely to resist -- a continuation of long-running fight between Obama and Republican governors, state legislatures and attorneys general on a variety of issues.

"In some of these states, there's just going to be a sort of reflexive, anti-Obama response," Sean Kelly, a political science professor at California State University Channel Islands told The Huffington Post. "They'll go to court. Some attorney general will see an opportunity."

Still, Kelly said Environmental Protection Agency regulations on power plant emissions probably will be difficult for states to obstruct because of a Supreme Court ruling that gave the executive branch a mandate to enforce the Clean Air Act.

Some state attorneys general have already weighed in on the climate fight. Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt signed onto a legal brief urging the Supreme Court to take up a case that challenges existing EPA greenhouse gas regulations. Other attorneys general, including Scott Pruitt from Oklahoma, have asked the federal government to grant states more authority to regulate natural gas drilling, or fracking. Texas' attorney general Greg Abbott, has petitioned the Supreme Court to take up his federal lawsuit challenging EPA's authority to regulate pollution.

In states with large coal mining industries, the proposals have proven controversial as well. West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R) Obama's proposals will plunge his state into "an abyss of poverty." Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R) the plan a "war on jobs."

"People are rejecting science," said Wisconsin state Rep. Fred Clark (D-Baraboo). "Just two weeks ago, I got a book in the mail, along with every other (state) legislator, funded by the Heartland Institute that basically tries to debunk the notion of climate change and claim that it's just part of a natural cycle." The Heartland Institute, a conservative think tank partly funded by oil and tobacco companies, denies global warming and the health effects of secondhand cigarette smoke.

Clark said he has trouble convincing his Republican colleagues to view climate change as human-caused. In other states, including Missouri and Kansas, Republican-controlled legislatures recently have adopted a mixed bag of resolutions resisting federal and international recommendations for environmental policy.

Hedke, a trained geophysicist who considers himself an environmentalist, told HuffPost he believes EPA regulations on energy producers are hurting businesses and families because of skyrocketing electricity bills. He also said the science used to promote policy is deeply flawed.

Existing EPA regulations have increased electricity costs in Kansas up to 60 percent in the last five years, Hedke said. Kansas' electricity costs are still 18 percent less expensive than the national average, according to an Institute for Energy Research fact sheet.

While Obama is likely to take action with executive power rather than legislation, Hedke and his counterparts in other states will have fewer options to resist. Nevertheless, they plan to fight back against the EPA and Obama.

"The EPA is just out of control. There's no other way to put it. And I'm going to fight the EPA with every fiber of my being for as long as I live," Hedke said. "We will take steps in the state of Kansas to try to push back on their unbelievable overreach and attempt to control the lives of Kansans and the people of the United States of America."

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