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Senate GOP Lays Groundwork for Energy, Climate

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who plans to become Majority Leader in January, was quick to identify energy issues as some of the Senate’s top priorities next session. Not surprisingly, those priorities include passage of legislation that would enable the Keystone XL pipeline project to move forward and roll back of climate rules.

McConnell told reporters that President Obama has “no interest… in doing anything serious on the energy front. We haven’t had an energy bill in seven years.”

Republican gains in the Senate created a filibuster-proof majority that should give the GOP the push it needed to pass the controversial pipeline project. Before this week’s election, supporters had 57 votes in the Senate, including a several Democrats. After Republican pickups, there are an estimated 61 yes votes.

“We need to embrace the energy revolution that’s going on in our country and promote it,” McConnell said in a speech in Kentucky Wednesday. “It’s hugely advantageous, not only in the area of energy independence, but employment.”

He also accused Obama of trying to implement cap-and-trade for carbon emissions with climate rule for power plants. The EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan has been a hot-button issue for Republicans and Democrats alike. Pre-Midterms, EPA chief Gina McCarthy said she was confident that the lowered emissions rule would move forward regardless of election outcomes.

However, even if the rule passes unobstructed, it is unlikely that the U.S. will hit emissions targets of a 30 percent reduction by 2030 based solely on timing of a final rule release. The EPA had wanted utilities to switch from coal to natural gas by 2020. Given the tight timeline, EPA is considering extending that date out by nearly a decade to 2029.

The shift is EPA thinking reportedly came after intense lobbying by utilities, the bulk of which said they can absorb less dependence on coal if their plants to continue functioning until they reach end of useful life before making the switch. McCarthy has said on numerous occasions that “the key to making our Clean Power Plan ambitious and achievable is flexibility.”