U.S. Senate race Chatter: Grimes and McConnell on coal and jobs edition

04/30/2014 03:33 PM

The Kentucky Coal Association is warning Alison Lundergan Grimes that she can’t have it both ways when it comes to coal after reports of a meeting with anti-coal donors Tuesday.

The Associated Press was first to report that Grimes attended a meeting Tuesday with big name donors including Tom Steyer, founder of political action committee NextGen Climate, who pledged $100 million to fighting climate-denying candidates in the midterm elections. A Grimes campaign official confirmed to Pure Politics that Grimes did not meet with Steyer individually on Tuesday — but could not say whether or not Steyer was at the meeting.

According to the Associated Press story, Kentucky Coal Association President Bill Bissett warned against anyone accepting donations form Steyer or his NextGen Climate Action group, saying that it would “identify you as being against the production and use of Kentucky coal.”

Bissett said in the statement that it was clear that Grimes’ comments on coal have been pro-coal thus far but that in light of the meeting, his statement serves as a warning of not being able to have it both ways on the issue.

Grimes’ campaign finance reports do not show any donations from Steyer or his group to date.

Grimes was in Chicago attending an event with Democrats who are members of the Democracy Alliance . That has prompted criticism from Republicans, starting with U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell’s campaign:

“Alison Lundergan Grimes has tried to promise her liberal fundraisers who are waging a war on coal one thing and Kentuckians another. The mere fact that it is an open question about whether she would accept money from people dedicated to destroying Kentucky’s economy speaks volumes,” McConnell campaign spokeswoman Allison Moore said in a statement.

But the Grimes campaign maintains that the candidate’s pro-coal stances are very clear.

“The McConnell campaign has tried this strategy before, and it is clearly not working. Kentuckians know Alison Lundergan Grimes is pro-coal. As we’ve seen, the McConnell campaign will go to desperate lengths to distract from Mitch McConnell’s failed 30-year Washington record,” Grimes campaign spokeswoman Charly Norton said in a statement. “Kentuckians know the loss of coal jobs that has occurred under his 30 years of failed leadership. The only job McConnell cares about is his own, as he proved last week when he said that bringing jobs to Kentucky was not his job.”

In an interview with Pure Politics in March, Bissett praised McConnell on his opposition to any anti-coal agendas and said Grimes should be more specific on the issue.

“She says she is for miners and for production and we appreciate that but that specificity is just not there,” Bissett said.

SCOTUS ruling places more burden on coal industry

Kentucky is one of the states affected by the Environmental Protection Agency’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule aimed at curbing power plant emissisions, which was upheld by the Supreme Court this week.

In a 6-2 decision, the Supreme Court on Tuesday confirmed the legality of the 2011 EPA rules aimed at reducing power plant emissions that contribute to pollution in neighboring states. The rule affects 28 states, including Kentucky. Attorney General Jack Conway was one of eight attorneys general to challenge the rules.

But the Supreme Court said it found the EPA’s approach to cutting the state-crossing pollution “sensible.” Many observers quoted by the Courier-Journal’s James Bruggers said it is unclear just what kind of effect this will have on the states marked by the EPA. But LG&E and KU energy is already spending $3 billion in order to try to comply with the rule, Bruggers reported.

McConnell said in a statement that Kentucky is facing a real crisis because of rules from the EPA like this one.

“This latest rule is devastating to Kentucky, to the thousands of families who rely on coal for their livelihood, and to the countless others who depend on this abundant resource as an affordable source of energy,” McConnell said. “Because of this rule, countless states will now have to alter their coal-fired power-plant emissions, thus further exasperating the coal industry’s ongoing struggles to survive.”

McConnell went on to say that the problem could be helped by passage of the Saving Coal Jobs Act, legislation sponsored by McConnell that would require any such EPA regulations to be approved by Congress.

Grimes also expressed disappointment in the Supreme Court’s decision on the EPA rule, saying it was another example of Washington not listening to Kentucky.

“We all want clean air, but we can have that and also have a healthy coal industry. Alison prefers giving each state more freedom to set standards. Coal is a vital American energy source, and it is a crucial source of Kentucky jobs,” Grimes campaign spokeswoman Charly Norton said in a statement to Pure Politics. “Rather than singling out our state for unjust hardship, the administration should be offering more research grants and scientific expertise to make clean-coal technology economically feasible. That is the balanced approach that will work.”

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Matt Bevin issued a statement criticizing McConnell for not doing more to keep coal jobs in addition to the EPA for its rules.

“It should not be possible for unelected bureaucrats to run wild with regulations that hurt Kentucky families who are simply trying to put food on the table,” Bevin said.

Grimes hits McConnell on job losses in new ad

The issue of jobs continues to be a major theme in the race. Bevin will announce a jobs plan Thursday — less than three weeks before the May 20 primary. And Grimes released a new web ad Wednesday criticizing McConnell on the economy and job creation.

The one minute online ad, titled “Kentucky Deserves a Pro-Jobs Senator”, features a compilation of news reports about the high unemployment rates in the state and seeks to place the blame for the job losses on Senator McConnell.

See the new ad here:

About Pure Politics

Pure Politics airs Monday through Friday at 7 p.m. ET and again at 11:30 p.m. ET in all of cn|2's Kentucky markets. The program features political analysis and news, as well as interviews with officials, candidates, policy makers and political observers.

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