Jim Gray announces 4-point plan to save coal industry

07/26/2016 07:52 PM

PIKEVILLE – Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Jim Gray unveiled a four-point plan on Tuesday in Pikeville to help invigorate the coal industry and revitalize Kentucky’s coal mining regions.

The four points of the plan include making innovation and technology work for Kentucky, bringing more industries and companies to the state, providing worker training to provide a well-trained and hard working workforce, and protecting pension plans for miners which are in crisis from shortfalls.

Gray acknowledged that the industry has taken hits over the year with thousands of lost jobs, but said that he is the only U.S. Senate candidate with a solid road map plan which can help save the coal industry as well as the eastern Kentucky economy beginning with growing jobs and businesses with investments.

“We need to invest in the highways of the future,” Gray said. “ In terms of pavement, I’m calling for the updating of roads, and bridges, and highways, as well as creating a new and true interstate highway by expanding the Hal Rogers Parkway. That means four uninterrupted lanes between Hazard and Somerset. A job creating highway.”

Gray also believes that the country needs to invest moire in researching Carbon Capture and Storage (CSS) technology which has the potential to make the use of coal cleaner and compliant with environmental protection regulations.

In this year’s budget request, President Obama requested $600 million for the Fossil Energy Program, a 5.1 percent decrease since last year.

Gray’s plan calls for increasing research and development funding for CCS, support private sector projects related to the fossil fuel industry, give tax incentives for CCS, make the best use of existing programs related to CCS, and support Sen. Heidi Heitkamp’s bill to support CCS.

Another component of Gray’s plan is to re-train coal workers with new job skills which would attract new industries and companies to relocate to the region.

“This is a challenging time for our commonwealth,” Gray said. “But it’s also one that is full of opportunity. It’s a chance to prepare Kentucky families for all sorts of possibilities for new jobs and new careers.”

Gray says that while he hopes to keep as many coal jobs as possible into the future, he thinks that the key for a strong eastern Kentucky economy will be to not depend on just the coal industry.

“I think dependence on any one industry is a problem, is a challenge, and I think we’re seeing that today,” Gray said. “So diversifying an economy is essential. This is what I’m proposing.”

Speaker of the House Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, voiced his support of Gray’s proposal and was critical of Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, for not being responsive to the regions needs.

“To date, after all of those idle promises that he made in his campaign, he has not passed one bill to put one coal miner back to work,” Stumbo said.

Tres Watson, the Republican Party of Kentucky Communications Director, issued a statement Thursday blasting Gray’s plan.

“It’s laughable that Jim Gray would expect Kentuckians to believe he is a Friend of Coal,” Watson said. “Gray’s campaign is funded by a litany of anti-coal US Senators. He donated to Barack Obama and he is a staunch supporter of Hillary Clinton, who has promised to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business. They say you can tell a lot about a person by the company he keeps; if that’s true, then clearly, Jim Gray is no friend of Kentucky’s coal industry.”

Don Weber

Don Weber is a Video Journalist for Spectrum News and covers politics and education on Pure Politics, Kentucky’s only nightly program dedicated to state politics. Don is a lifelong Kentuckian and a graduate of Northern Kentucky University. He spent many years covering sports in the Northern Kentucky area before shifting primarily to politics. You can watch Don’s work weeknights at 7:00 and 11:30 on Pure Politics, available exclusively on Spectrum News, HD Channels 403 and 715. If you have a story idea you can reach Don at donald.weber@charter.com.

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