Two weeks after the EPA released a proposed emissions performance standard that would require CCS for all new coal-fired power plants (see EPA Releases Revised Performance Standard Requiring CCS, 9/23), initial evidence suggests that the political fallout for Democrats is minimal. The new standard and the supposed "war on coal" being waged by the Obama Administration have become a flashpoint in the Virginia governor's race between Democrat Terry McAuliffe, former chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Clinton confidante, and Republican Ken Cuccinelli, the state's Attorney General. Southwest Virginia is coal country, leading McAuliffe to evade questions about the standard in the days following EPA's announcement. When he finally expressed support, Cuccinelli went on the attack and accused McAuliffe of hostility toward Virginia's coal industry.
A new poll of 1,150 likely voters commissioned by Politico shows that the issue has failed to catch fire among the state electorate. In response to the question, "Do you support or oppose new Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, regulations on coal-fired power plants aimed at curtailing climate change?," 45% of respondents expressed support, 33% were opposed, and 22% were unsure. Predictably, support was high among Democrats (67%) and low among Republicans (21%), while independents were 44% in favor, 36% opposed, and 19% unsure. These results are largely mirrored in overall voter preferences, with 44% of respondents supporting McAuliffe, 35% supporting Cuccinelli, and 12% supporting Libertarian Robert Sarvis (in a hypothetical two-man match-up 52% of respondents prefer McAuliffe compared to 42% for Cuccinelli). Cuccinelli is demonstrably suffering from voter dissatisfaction with the Republican-led shutdown of the federal government, which affects Virginia disproportionately given the state's high number of government employees and large federal presence.