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POLITICS: PennAve

Kay Hagan presses Senate for climate action

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Sen. Kay Hagan took to the Senate floor Thursday to call for congressional action on climate change.

"This is a pressing problem that needs to be addressed and too often gets pushed to the backburner," the North Carolina Democrat said.

The overture was of note because Hagan is in a tight re-election contest in a red-leaning state. She and other Democrats in a similar situation were absent from an all-night climate event involving more than two dozen Democrats speaking on the Senate floor earlier this week.

"This current path is unsustainable, and we must take steps now to slow and stop the effects of climate change," Hagan said. "This is a challenge that will need to be addressed from many different directions."

The comments will likely prove fodder for GOP opponents who will look to paint her as extreme. The National Republican Senatorial Committee, for example, took that tack against Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., for participating in the overnight climate event.

Hagan already has faced attack advertisements from outside groups, such as conservative American Energy Alliance, for opposing a March 2013 amendment to the nonbinding Senate Democrat budget proposal that would have blocked a carbon tax.

But Hagan said confronting climate change could present economic wins for her state.

Hagan noted the state's Research Triangle area surrounding Duke University, North Carolina University and North Carolina State University has become a hub for churning out clean-energy technology.

She also said blunting the effects of climate change would help tame extreme weather that she said has hurt the state's agriculture and tourism industries in recent years.

Hagan pointed to flooding in several North Carolina counties that put a dent in the state's agriculture industry, which she said generates $77 billion in annual economic activity. And storms such as Hurricane Irene, which hit during tourism season in August 2011, threaten to ding that industry, which she said contributes $25 billion to the state's economy.

"We are seeing the very real impact climate change is having on my state and its economy today," Hagan said. "In the absence of action, this extreme weather is here to stay."

Hagan's speech comes as Senate Democrats are looking to make climate change a key issue in the 2014 midterm elections. And some outsiders are looking to do the same -- Tom Steyer, a billionaire climate activist and former hedge fund manager, has pledged to put up $50 million this year to support climate-friendly candidates.

Brook Hougesen, a spokeswoman with the National Republican Senatorial Committee, slammed Hagan's speech as a move designed to attract such support.

"Kay Hagan is filling her campaign coffers with money from liberal extremists whose radical agenda would also mean harmful red tape regulation, higher taxes, and higher costs that would cripple entire industries and destroy local jobs," she said.

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Zack Colman

Staff Writer
The Washington Examiner