ATLANTA — The Obama administration’s plan to reduce carbon emissions is likely to cause Georgia to evaluate its current energy supply, but it also could factor into two of the state’s biggest political races this year.
Democratic Senate candidate Michelle Nunn is keeping her distance from the plan, offering a wait-and-see approach while underscoring the need to reduce carbon emissions. Both Republicans in the Senate race have denounced the plan, saying the regulations are too burdensome.
Nunn said in an interview that the plan needs further review to determine the effects on Georgia. She also said she wants to make sure the state gets credit for efforts already made to reduce emissions before she will support the plan.
It’s another example of Nunn stopping short of embracing key Obama priorities as she tries to woo independents. She’s also questioned aspects of the Affordable Care Act and backed the Keystone XL oil pipeline.
“There has been a significant amount of work done by Georgia Power and the state of Georgia around ensuring that we are transitioning to cleaner energy and more renewable resources,” Nunn said. “In the coming weeks, we’ll have a better sense of what the actual circumstances will be as it relates to the regulations and requirements.”
Statistics show Georgia relies on coal to produce just under a third of the state’s electricity, though that will change when two new nuclear reactors under construction become operational in a few years.
Under guidelines issued June 2, Georgia would need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 44 percent by 2030. Federal officials said Georgia will have flexibility in determining how to reach that mark. It could work with other states to set up programs that cap emissions but allow power companies to trade emissions permits with each other.
In the Senate race, Republicans Jack Kingston and David Perdue will meet in a July 22 runoff. Both joined Georgia Sens. Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss, also Republicans, in denouncing the plan.
The issue could also flare up in Georgia’s governor’s race. Democrat Jason Carter said he also wants to make sure Georgia gets credit for making progress in reducing pollution.
“Our kids and future generations deserve a clean and healthy environment, so we need to continue promoting clean energy like solar and wind as I have done in a bipartisan way in the Senate,” said Carter, a state senator.
Gov. Nathan Deal offered a more measured response than his fellow Republicans and also praised the state’s energy providers for taking steps to reduce emissions.
“I think we should all be concerned about pollution and emissions, and we have to balance that of course with keeping ourselves a competitive society from an economic standpoint,” Deal said.