PIKEVILLE — Enthusiasm was in abundance, on stage and in the crowd, at the Eastern Kentucky Coal Rally sponsored by Count on Coal in the Pikeville High School Auditorium on Saturday.
Representatives from every level of government were on hand to voice their support for the coal industry, including U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, who received a standing ovation when he took the podium.
“The message I have this morning is to not give up,” he said. “I know they’ve created a dismal situation in our state. They don’t care about us … they don’t care about what’s going to happen to our people.”
McConnell closed his speech by holding up a small chunk of coal, explaining the fight in the Supreme Court over environmental regulations and his commitment to fighting them.
Haven King, Perry County Clerk, was among the most energetic speakers in attendance. He began a spirited chant to get the crowd participating. Other guests included state Rep. Fitz Steele (D-84), state Sen. Robin Webb (D-18), Magoffin County Judge-Executive Charles “Doc” Hardin, Perry County Judge-Executive Denny Ray Noble, and Harlan County Judge-Executive Joseph A. Grieshop.
Organizers say coal rallies like this one used to bring attendees by the thousands. Although the crowd on Saturday did not break 400, their passion for the coal industry made up for the low head count.
State Rep. Keith Hall, who does business in the coal industry while representing Pike County in Frankfort, presented the case for coal-based ethanol. He said he is currently dealing with a Minnesota company that wants to build an ethanol plant in Phelps — fueled not by corn, but by coal.
“[The process] takes coal, boils it — like moonshine — and creates eight alcohols, the number one alcohol being ethanol. They can take a ton of coal and create 100 gallons of ethanol. That brings jobs to our region,” Hall explained. As mandates push for a greater percentage of ethanol in regular gasoline, he hopes this technology could make Kentucky a leader in getting America independent from foreign oil.
The rally wrapped up with a free lunch donated by area restaurants and a free concert by Pineville native Jimmy Rose and his band. The singer, who got the message about the plight of the coal industry to a national audience on NBC’s “America’s Got Talent,” was recognized as an honorary Kentucky Admiral.
Rose’s girlfriend, Heather, was grateful for their warm reception. “It is the best show we have done yet, and the best we have been treated.”
Comment cards were available outside the auditorium, addressed to the Environmental Protection Agency, in opposition to their regulations. Anyone who would like these comment cards available for their business or event should contact Julie Wilson at (606) 424-8787 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.