WASHINGTON - Incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky pledged Wednesday to do all he could to stop President Obama's coal-plant regulations, saying a White House "crusade" has devastated his state.

The Environmental Protection Agency "has created a depression in my state, and it's done a lot of damage to the country all across the country with these efforts to essentially eliminate coal-fired generation," he said in an Associated Press interview.

"I couldn't be angrier about it, and whatever we can think of to try to stop it we're going to do. . . . I know it won't be easy with Barack Obama in the White House."

McConnell takes over the Senate leadership and its new Republican majority in January. He reaffirmed plans to make approving the Keystone XL pipeline, to run from Canada to Texas, as the first order of business. He said other moves to counter Obama's environmental policies awaited, but he did not offer details.

'A pebble'

The Obama administration is trying to get fossil-fuel-fired power plants to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. The White House also recently announced a deal with China to curb the greenhouse gases blamed for global warming.

Asked if the Senate had any obligation to address global warming, McConnell said: "Look, my first obligation is to protect my people, who are hurting as the result of what this administration is doing."

He said that despite the administration's "phony deal" with China, "coal is booming elsewhere."

"Our country, going down this path all by ourselves, is going to have about as much impact as dropping a pebble in the ocean," McConnell said.

"So for the president to pursue his crusade at the expense of the people of my state is completely unacceptable," he said.

Deferring to Rubio

Much of the decline of the Kentucky coal industry is actually due to the rise of other energy, such as cheaper natural gas, as well as cheaper coal from other states. Obama's regulations have not all taken effect.

McConnell also was cool to the administration's plans to normalize ties with Cuba. He said he deferred to Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, a Cuban American from Florida, on the issue because he said Rubio was an expert on U.S.-Cuban matters.

Rubio said Obama's approach would help the Castro government but do nothing to further democracy.

"Sounds like the correct response to me," McConnell said. "I think he knows more about this than almost anybody in the Senate, if not everybody in the Senate, and I wouldn't differ with his characterization."