April 04, 2012 - 12:05 pm

BY WESLEY P. HESTER

The debate over newly proposed regulations on carbon dioxide emissions has hit Virginia full force.

As Republicans assailed the Obama-administration proposal, the League of Conservation Voters and Mom’s Clean Air Force on Tuesday launched a “seven-figure TV ad buy” in support of the regulations, which would limit emissions from new power plants.

The ads will appear in 12 major media markets, including Richmond, in Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and D.C.

The proposed EPA standards would apply only to new plants, but opponents argue that they would essentially block any new coal-fired plants like those that have helped sustain Southwest Virginia’s economy for decades.

The League of Conservation Voters, which is holding an event in Richmond tomorrow to support the regulations, say they are sorely needed.

“The EPA is simply following the Clean Air Act – passed by Congress with bipartisan support – and two Supreme Court decisions by issuing the first national standard on dangerous carbon pollution that spews from the smokestacks of electric power plants every day,” said LCV President Gene Karpinski.

Meanwhile, Republicans were portraying the suggested rules as an overreach and an attack on coal industry and mining jobs.

“President Obama is keeping his word and making sure that the coal industry goes bankrupt with this new rule, and that will bankrupt Southwest Virginia,” said Republican Party of Virginia 2012 Victory Chairman Pete Snyder.

Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-9th, said the rule was the latest in a long line of hits on the region’s economy courtesy of the current administration, adding he feared what would happen if Obama were re-elected.

“I worry that the president and [EPA administrator] Lisa Jackson will feel more flexible after the election, after they’ve had a little space to think about it, and may start applying…this rule to existing coal power plants,” he said.

If approved, they would require new plants to limit emissions to 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour. Coal plants typically emit between 1,600 and 1,900 pounds per megawatt hour.

Republican U.S. Senate and former Gov. George Allen was early to bash the regulations, last week saying that they would “devastate our economy and force families and small business owners to shoulder the burden of skyrocketing electricity bills.”

Asked about the issue Wednesday, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Timothy M. Kaine said he “definitely had concerns” with the rules, but added that “any plant that we build tomorrow should be cleaner than plants that were built yesterday.”

Kaine noted that the regulations are not final and are open to public comment.

“If the proposed rule is too tough, then we figure out what the right emissions levels are,” he said.