Former U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler has been in the news this month after publishing an op-ed in The Courier-Journal advocating for a switch away from coal and toward renewable energy. Chandler, a Democrat, represented Kentucky’s Sixth District in Congress from 2004 to 2013, when he was replaced by Republican Rep. Andy Barr. Barr’s campaign successfully managed to paint Chandler, a Democrat, as anti-coal, partially due to a vote he cast in favor of cap-and-trade legislation.
In an interview with WFPL News, he discussed coal, climate change, and Kentucky’s future. Listen to the interview in the audio player above.
On the future of Kentucky’s coal industry:
“Coal is not going to come back anywhere near where it was. So we don’t really have any realistic hope of growing coal jobs in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. But we do have the opportunity to take advantage of clean energy jobs.”
On where Kentucky should allocate its resources:
“I do think we spend a lot of our resources, both in time and in money, defending the coal industry, and we ought to take those resources and we ought to put them onto something that will produce jobs for the people of Kentucky. So we have to take our heads out of the sand, and we have to move on to the future.”
On the damage coal and pollution are causing in the state:
“These problems are even beyond climate change. We’ve got enormous health problems in Kentucky. My family has suffered from breathing difficulties; the air in Kentucky is not good, and a big cause of that is the fact we burn so much coal.”
On whether an agenda based on renewable energy and improved health could help reinvigorate the Kentucky Democratic Party:
“If we really put some effort into it — if we move our resources in that direction. We need to tell the people of Kentucky the truth. And the truth is that we need to stop burning so much coal, we need to diversify, we need to make our state cleaner, healthier, and all of that combined will cause us to create more job opportunities for the people of this commonwealth. What people in Kentucky want, they want a better environment and they want more economic opportunities. And coal, in my view, is preventing us from achieving those goals.”