Politics
3:44 pm
Mon March 10, 2014

Alison Lundergan Grimes Unclear on Supporting Senate Democrats Climate Change 'Talk-a-Thon'

Alison Lundergan Grimes

A majority of Democrats are planning to takeover the Senate floor to bring attention to climate change in a so-called "talk-a-thon" Monday. 

It's unclear if Kentucky candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes either supports or would participate in the event.

But a prominent environmentalist says the campaign is promising Grimes will be more aggressive in fighting for a green agenda after the election.

The "talk-a-thon" plan is for 28 Senate Democrats to discuss how human activity is the cause of changing weather pattens up until Tuesday morning.

Supporters argue this is a way to "wake up" Congress about the need for government action to curb carbon dioxide and other hazardous emissions.

WFPL asked Grimes campaign spokeswoman Charly Norton if her candidate supported tonight's event or if a Senator Grimes would participate.

The campaign provided an unclear—if familiar—statement.

From the Grimes campaign:

"Alison understands the reality of climate change. But what she doesn’t support is unnecessary regulation that hurts Kentuckians. She will push for a broader approach that invests federal money in clean coal technology and in helping the industry become more competitive in a changing marketplace. While it is important to protect the environment, it is just as important to make sure the men and women of Kentucky are able to provide for their families. As Senator, Alison will work to protect the jobs of hardworking Kentuckians in any solution to the changing climate." — Charly Norton 3/10/2014

That message is a verbatim copy to what Grimes aides told WFPL six months ago when asked about the Environmental Protection Agency, climate change, and the burning of fossil fuels.

From the Grimes campaign in September:

"Alison understands the reality of climate change. But what she doesn't support is unnecessary regulation that hurts Kentuckians. She will push for a broader approach that invests federal money in clean coal technology and in helping the industry become more competitive in a changing marketplace. While it is important to protect the environment, it is just as important to make sure the men and women of Kentucky are able to provide for their families. As Senator, Alison will work to protect the jobs of hardworking Kentuckians in any solution to the changing climate.” — Charly Norton 9/19/2013

The National Climactic Data Center says the planet's surface temperature has increased by 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit since 1900.

A new report by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and The Royal Society says if greenhouse gas emissions are not curbed the Earth's average temperate could go up by approximately 5 to 9 degrees by the end of this century.

Louisville environmental activist Sarah Lynn Cunningham says she is very encouraged by what some Democratic senators are doing in Washington. But she says the environmental community is still waiting for Grimes to distinguish herself from Republican incumbent Mitch McConnell in this year's election.

"It's really disappointing to me that a candidate for the U.S. Senate can't get in touch with reality any better than this and can't tell the public the truth," she says. "If she were a real leader she would be calling for job training for these coal miners to do the kind of work that is much needed in the coalfields such as insulating homes and businesses."

No Republican senators are scheduled to participate in Monday's event, but McConnell is set to provide a rebuttal later this afternoon. Many red state incumbents such as Joe Manchin of West Virginia, have chosen to bypass the "talk-a-thon" altogether.

Grimes has walked a tightrope on a number of issues such as the environment in her bid to defeat McConnell.

Thus far, the strategy has worked in terms of collecting campaign cash and she is ahead of McConnell in the most recent polls.

But GOP critics argue Grimes can't hold fundraisers with climate activists such as Susie Tompkins Buell while claiming to support the coal industry back home. The national "green vote" appears willing to embrace Grimes, but those back in Kentucky are still grappling with a "lesser of two evils" choice.

Some environmental activists are still feeling flat in spite of promises of a change.

Cunningham told WFPL a Grimes campaign official recently told her that the first-term secretary of state would be more forthright on legislative steps to combat pollutants once McConnell was defeated in the fall.

"There's this thinking that after Alison Lundergan Grimes were to win then she would sober up to reality and start talking about climate change and what we were going to do about it," says Cunningham. "I'm not holding my breath on that one. I think that if she takes a lot of money from the fossil fuel industry she's going to continue to be mum. It's very uninspiring to people like me."

The Grimes campaign has not responded to our follow-up questions regarding this story.

UPDATE 5:55 p.m.:

A Grimes campaign spokeswoman flatly denies any promise was made about changing her stance on the environment after the election.

"Alison's pro-coal position remains the same. No member of this campaign has never communicated otherwise to Cunningham or anyone else," says Norton.

Norton also points out that within the Grimes jobs plan there is a portion that deals with bridging the skills gap, including an emphasis on math, science and engineering skills, expanding on-the-job training programs and incentives for companies to make job training available to workers.

The campaign has still not answered whether Grimes supports the all night talk in the Senate.

In an e-mail to WFPL, Cunningham described the individual who indicated Grimes will change her views after the 2014 general election as a "campaign volunteer."

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