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Energy, environment issues dominate some Senate races

Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinto

Energy and climate are central issues on some of the tightest U.S. Senate races of 2014 and have created a surge in spending by outside groups.

Environment-focused groups are on track to spend over $85 million on key U.S. Senate races and state elections to support candidates who will protect theObama administration's Climate Action Plan.

Energy companies and industry groups have also poured money into tight races to support candidates who would promote oil and gas development and less environmental oversight.

The following are some key Senate races where energy and environment issues have dominated:

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ALASKA

The question of federal regulatory overreach was a core issue inAlaska. First-term DemocratMark Begichhas stood behind actions by PresidentObama'sEnvironmental Protection Agency, including a decision to limit development of the massive Pebble Mine project in the state because it threatens the largest salmon fishery in the world. He has also backed the EPA's June proposal to slash carbon emissions from power plants.

Republican challengerDan Sullivan, a former commissioner of the state'sDepartment of Natural Resources, did not take a position on the Pebble Mine but said he would take on the EPA and federal permitting process, which he says are major barriers to the state's economic growth.

COLORADO

The race in this energy producing state has drawn millions in spending from outside groups, including $2 million from the industry-focused Koch Brothers and nearly $5 million from billionaire environmentalistTom Steyer's NextGen Climate Action Committee. Although Democratic incumbentMark Udalland Republican RepresentativeCory Gardnerhave touted support for an "all of the above" energy policy, Udall believes in strong climate change regulations while Gardner questions the science behind it. Gardner, however, said he supports renewable energy and released an ad of himself in front of a wind farm.

IOWA

Vying for the seat of retiring DemocratTom Harkin, RepublicanJoni Ernstand DemocratBruce Braleyhave accused each other of being beholden to deep-pocketed donors with divergent views on energy and the environment: the Koch Brothers andTom Steyer. Ernst has called for the elimination of the EPA for what she terms "job-killing" regulations. She has questioned the impact humans have had on climate change. On another issue key forIowa, the Renewable Fuel Standard, Braley has said the ethanol mandate supports jobs forIowafarmers. Ernst, who initially wavered on the issue, later came out in support of the biofuel program.

KENTUCKY

Both candidates vow to save the coal-mining state from theObama administration's "war on coal." Republican incumbentMitch McConnellhas pledged to cripple the EPA's ability to regulate carbon emissions from power as a way to protect state coal sector jobs. Democratic challengerAlison Lundergan Grimes, who won the endorsement of the United Mine Workers ofAmerica, has distanced herself fromObamaand the EPA, and criticized the agency's proposed carbon rules. She also said most coal jobs inKentuckywere lost on McConnell's watch.

LOUISIANA

Democratic incumbentMary Landrieuhas touted her chairmanship of theSenate Energy Committeein her bid for a fourthSenateterm. Oil and gas interests have poured money into the race in hopes that Landrieu, who has parted with party leadership on issues such as theKeystone pipeline, offshore oil drilling and EPA overreach, holds her seat. Landrieu is in a toss-up race with Republican challengerBill Cassidyand independentRob Maness. If no one captures more than 50 percent of the vote,Louisianawould hold a two-way runoff in December.

 
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