Pennsylvania voters favor EPA greenhouse gas curbs, poll shows

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Voters in the swing states of Pennsylvania and Virginia have shifted strongly in support of federal regulations that limit power plant emissions contributing to climate change, according to polls released Thursday by the League of Conservation Voters.

The polls found that 72 percent of Pennsylvania voters and 67 percent of Virginia voters favor the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's proposed limits on greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants.

Similar majorities in both states recognize climate change as a serious problem, favor elected officials and candidates who support action to address it, and believe such action will create rather than cost jobs.

"We are at a new political moment on climate change," said Bill Burton, senior adviser at the League of Conservation Voters, a Washington, D.C., environmental policy and advocacy organization. "The polls show that not only is the Republican leadership wrong on policy, it's wrong on politics."

The poll results are similar to national polling results released Tuesday by Washington Post-ABC News that show broad support for the EPA taking action, even if that action causes higher electricity rates. Support for the EPA proposal limiting greenhouse gases was strong in coal-producing states, even if those states must make bigger reductions than other states.

"This looks like it will be a significant problem going forward in the 2014 and 2016 elections for the Republicans that deny climate change and don't favor action," said Geoff Garin, president of Hart Research Associates, which conducted the polls for the league. "Among key groups and demographics, the support for action to do something about climate change is very deep."

The Pennsylvania poll findings included:

  • Twenty-three percent of those polled oppose the EPA carbon pollution rules, while there is strong consensus in favor in the Philadelphia area (76 percent) and the Pittsburgh area (69 percent). In the coal-producing areas of Western Pennsylvania, excluding Allegheny County, 63 percent of those polled favored the EPA rules.
  • Women (76 percent) and Pennsylvanians 18 to 36 years old (79 percent) are especially high in their support of the rules, as are Democrats (86 percent) and independent voters (69 percent) and voters over 65 years old (69 percent).
  • Republicans support the EPA rules, too, but by a narrower margin (58 percent vs. 37 percent).

Mr. Garin said a poll question showed 61 percent of voters wanted their senators to support the EPA rules, with 27 percent favoring opposition.

"We are seeing clearly that for voters, it's a net plus for officials or candidates who believe climate change is a significant threat and we should do something about it," Mr. Garin said. "And it's a problem for those who say it's not real or that don't want to do anything about it."

Elizabeth Anderson, a spokeswoman for Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., declined to comment on the poll results. She instead cited the senator's comments about the federal power plant controls earlier this week, in which he accused the Obama administration of a "War on Coal" and continuing policies that drive up energy costs.

Mr. Toomey, unlike some Republican conservatives, has acknowledged that the climate is changing, but not that the change is a product of human activity. He has voted to bar the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases as it did this week.

Sampling of 600 voters in each state by Hart Research Associates was done by phone between May 27 and Sunday. The margin of sampling error for the state polls is plus or minus 4 percent.

Don Hopey: or 412-263-1983. First Published June 5, 2014 12:45 PM

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