Kentucky needs a pro-coal senator

Alison Lundergan Grimes

November 29, 2013

Mitch McConnell gets most things wrong, but there is one nail he hit right on the head: He says that he and I are far apart on coal. He couldn’t be more right.

Mitch McConnell’s so-called defense of coal consists entirely of name-calling and slogans. During his 30 years in Washington, Mitch McConnell has accomplished next to nothing for the coal industry, coal families and mining communities. He talks the game, but the game he plays is about as dangerous for coal miners as a rotten mine timber.

And when the pressure’s on coal, as it has been in recent years, Mitch McConnell is missing in action. He’s preoccupied playing the Washington game of obstruction and gridlock on every issue but the one place where it matters – stopping those who would shut down our coal industry. You can’t spend an entire Washington career maneuvering to gain personal power and fail to deliver any credible job-saving solutions, while Kentucky’s coal employment falls to the lowest level since 1927, then pretend you give any real attention to the needs of the coalfields.

I won’t bend or break in my support for our coal miners, their families and their coalfield neighbors. My focus will be on helping Kentuckians, including regular strategy sessions in the coalfields with the hardworking miners and responsible operators who keep our people employed and our lights on.

Mitch McConnell only cares about keeping himself employed, and well fed at Washington’s buffet tables of finger food and fine wine. Meanwhile, he slyly supported an extreme budget proposal that would end over $500 million in fossil fuel research and development and cut millions of dollars for investments in clean-coal technology. As Kentucky’s senator, I will devote my time to the circuit of federal agencies, not the social circuit. We need a senator who pushes the bureaucracy to drop unneeded regulations while enforcing those that do protect coal miners’ health and safety. We need tax breaks that support clean-coal research and advanced mining technology, and it is a moral imperative to extend and improve black lung benefits, not decimate them.

I know what Mitch McConnell doesn’t – that our retired coal miners need the Social Security that McConnell wants to cut and privatize, and the Medicare that he wants to raise premiums on by $6,000 a year. My interest, unlike Mitch McConnell’s, is in supporting the coalfield families and communities that need a real champion in Washington. This is also why I called for the Senate to follow the lead of a bipartisan effort in the House to protect coal miner retirees and their families, an idea that McConnell shrugged off with his normal Washington-style fingerpointing.

Regardless of Mitch McConnell’s empty claims, the difficulties that beset coal are not simply the result of the regulatory work of one political faction or party. After all, it was President Richard Nixon who got the Environmental Protection Agency created and the federal Clean Air Act enacted in 1970, and it was President George H.W. Bush who pressed successfully to toughen the Clean Air Act in 1990, amendments which Mitch McConnell supported. I will oppose burdensome and unnecessary regulations, but I also recognize that coal faces competition from cheap natural gas and global concerns about carbon emissions. I will be a tireless advocate for the strong federal and industry commitment to research and development that is needed to meet those challenges.

My job will be to push relentlessly for understanding and acceptance of the sound argument that a coherent long-term national energy policy must include a prominent role for coal — an invaluable resource that Kentucky and the United States possess in abundance, that is already put to use on a large scale and that is not subject to the whims of dictators in the Middle East.

My commitment will be to position Kentucky and coal to be an integral part of tomorrow’s energy picture. Mitch McConnell’s approach is to block progress and grind the Senate to a halt.

In this race, I am the pro-coal candidate. After next year’s election, I will be Kentucky’s pro-coal senator.