DENVER (AP) – Democratic Sen. Mark Udall on Monday defended his support for a carbon tax, lashing back at criticism from his opponent who says plans to slash carbon emissions at coal-fired power plants raises energy costs for homeowners.

In the second debate between Udall and Republican Rep. Cory Gardner, Udall took a more aggressive stance than he has in the past, saying the changes by the Environmental Protection Agency are an opportunity for green energy companies.

“We are ready for the EPA regulations. Carbon pollution is real,” Udall said. “Climate science … is showing us that we have to act.”

Udall made pointed jabs at Gardner on climate change, saying that Gardner “doesn’t think climate change is occurring.”

Gardner said he believed man-made pollution contributes to climate change. But he opposed a carbon tax.

“What I am not willing to do is to destroy the economy for policies to address that,” Gardner said.

Gardner asked Udall to say what price should be put on carbon.

“We’ve shown that we can put a price on pollution,” Udall answered without giving a price.

The two also clashed on the new health care law. Asked whether he’d vote again for the overhaul, Udall said he would.

“It’s not perfect – you all know that – but we’re going to make it work,” Udall said.

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Gardner, who has voted many times with Republican colleagues to repeal the overhaul, was asked what he’d do about the estimated 260,000 who have joined Medicaid due to the federal expansion.

Gardner didn’t say, but he repeated his criticism of the expansion.

“Once we have this in place, how on earth is the program going to be paid for?” Gardner asked.

The two also sniped on immigration. Gardner said he’d support conditional permanent residency for people brought to this country illegally as children. Udall said Gardner “hasn’t lifted a finger” to suggest an immigration solution.

The candidates were not asked about marriage equality, even though the debate came hours after Colorado got word that same-sex marriage will proceed despite a ban in the state constitution. The debate concerned mostly economic questions.

Udall and Gardner debate again Tuesday.

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– By Kristen Wyatt, AP Writer

(© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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