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Gina McCarthy testifies before a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on her nomination to be administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency on Capitol Hill in Washington April 11, 2013. (REUTERS/Joshua Roberts) Gina McCarthy testifies before a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on her nomination to be administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency on Capitol Hill in Washington April 11, 2013. (REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)  

EPA chief avoids coal states on her climate regulation tour before elections

Environmental Protection Agency administrator Gina McCarthy was on the road promoting the agency’s regulations that effectively ban coal-fired power plants. But while she is making it to politically relevant states, she is avoiding the country’s top coal producing states that are most affected by EPA regulations.

McCarthy and other EPA officials have so far held listening sessions in 11 cities to “gather information” that will help shape final regulations on coal plants. The New York Times reports she has met with Iowa Republican Gov. Terry Branstad to talk about how EPA rules will affect farmers and has gone to an energy industry conference in Houston.

The Times also notes that McCarthy went to North Dakota with an invitation from Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp to speak to the state’s energy industry. It was there that she assured the oil and gas industry that EPA climate regulations would not slow down the region’s energy boom.

But McCarthy has no plans to visit the country’s top coal producing states — Wyoming, Kentucky and West Virginia — despite invitations from coal state lawmakers to come and talk about the EPA regulations with coal miners.

The plan is to “warm up voters” for the upcoming elections this year in anticipation of Republican attacks on Democrats who support the EPA’s climate rules, the Times notes. The EPA has even employed Obama campaign communications guru Thomas Reynolds, who is making sure that McCarthy’s presence is known in politically important states, like North Dakota.

“Once again, Administrator McCarthy’s tour conveniently skips states where folks depend on coal for affordable electricity and jobs,” Kentucky Republican Rep. Ed Whitfield told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “In Kentucky, over 90 percent of the power comes from coal, yet McCarthy has no plans to come listen to the hardworking men and women in my state who stand to face high energy price increases and job losses from EPA’s new regulations.”

“After watching her so-called listening tour, I think she only listened to what she wanted to hear,” said Wyoming Republican Sen. John Barrasso. “She seems to intentionally steer clear of areas where coal is produced.”

Republicans attacked the EPA last year for not holding any of the agency’s listening sessions in coal country. The agency held hearings in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, New York City; Philadelphia, Seattle, Washington, D.C. and Lenexa, Kansas.

The EPA’s Illinois listening session was more than 300 miles away from the state’s two largest coal mines — which together produced about 12 million short tons of coal in 2011. The EPA’s Pennsylvania session was more than 330 miles from the largest coal mines, located in the western part of the state.

The EPA has issued regulations for new power plants that limit the amount of carbon dioxide new facilities can legally emit. The agency created two separate standards for coal plants and natural gas plants.

While natural gas plants will just need to upgrade their emissions technology, new coal plants have been effectively banned by the EPA rule as even the most efficient coal plant cannot comply unless it adopts costly and unproven carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology.

The EPA will also publish regulations later this year that will require existing power plants to cut emissions. Nebraska has already filed a lawsuit challenging the EPA’s power plants rules, and it’s expected that other should follow suit as the deadline for the rule to be finalized draws nearer.

“No matter what I do, I will get sued,” McCarthy told The New York Times.

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