Democratic nominee Alison Lundergan Grimes isn’t giving an inch in the coal wars that federal regulators have ignited in Kentucky’s U.S. Senate race this week.
In reaction to Republican incumbent Mitch McConnell’s so-called “Coal Country Protection Action” the Grimes campaign said the measure isn’t good enough.
From Grimes campaign manager Jonathan Hurst:
“While it is heartening Mitch McConnell turns his eye to coal country every six years to get re-elected, the senior senator’s new bill does not go far enough and is inadequate. As Alison outlined in January, we must work to not only rein in the EPA’s over-burdensome regulations, but also invest in clean coal technology, support coal and energy research, and keep foreign markets open for coal.
When Alison Lundergan Grimes is in the U.S. Senate, Kentuckians can rest assured that she will work with members of both parties to get Washington working for Kentucky—something Mitch McConnell has lost sight of after three decades in DC as he attempts to follow Alison’s lead.”
It’s been said the new EPA rules on carbon emissions hamper Grimes politically. The EPA rules remind Kentucky voters that she and President Barack Obama are members of the same party, which is something GOP critics are eager to mention.
Grimes is not backing down, however.
She is actively slamming the president and her campaign is going on the offensive, saying McConnell was the one who voted against an omnibus bill containing $500 million for fossil fuel research and development. The legislation was supported by Kentucky Congressman Hal Rogers in part for its investments toward clean coal technology.
“I will never support cutting such programs,” Grimes said in a statement. “Indeed, I will spare no effort to expand them.”
Absent in this “who is a bigger friend to coal” conversation is an actual debate about climate change, America’s energy future, or legitimate the health concerns about coal on rural Kentuckians.
The Grimes-McConnell coal “debate” also overshadows how the industry is experiencing record-low employment that is much the fault of market forces as government regulations.
From The New Republic:
Coal-mining employment in the Bluegrass State has plunged by more than half in the past three decades, from 38,000 in 1983 to under 17,000 in 2012, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
To put that in perspective: the auto manufacturing industry in Kentucky employs three times as many people as the coal industry does today.
None of this is meant to minimize the economic pain that new limits on coal will inflict on Appalachian coal country. It’s just to note that the decline has been underway for a very long time, driven by a combination of automation, the rise of easier-to-access Western coal in Wyoming and Montana’s Powder River Basin, restrictions on mountaintop mining, and most of all, the new surge in cheap natural gas. “It’s not Obama’s war on coal. It’s reality’s war on coal.
Still, McConnell’s allies believe this issue is a political winner and hammer at Grimes’s position on coal.
Those critics also point out that Grimes cannot reconcile being pro-coal in Kentucky while holding fundraiser with Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid and fossil fuel critics.
Grimes was also well aware of President Obama’s energy policies when she supported his re-election in 2012, McConnell campaign spokeswoman Allison Moore said.
“It is a fact that Alison Lundergan Grimes lined up as a delegate behind Barack Obama after he announced he would wage a war on coal and said nothing as thousands of Kentuckians lost their jobs,” she said. “Her attempt to race to the fight now that she’s a candidate to criticize those who have been fighting on the front lines for Kentucky is both insulting and transparently absurd.”
The point McConnell and his allies are making is: no matter what Grimes says on the campaign trail, she is powerless to stop Washington’s Democratic Party.
UPDATE 9:15 a.m.:
Grimes launched a new radio ad Wednesday morning speaking directly to President Obama, saying his new environmental rules are “targeting Kentucky coal with pie in the sky regulations that are impossible to achieve.”
The 60-second radio spot is running in Eastern and Western Kentucky, but not in urban centers such as Louisville where the president is more popular.