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September 19, 2013

Grimes, McConnell spar on coal issues

FRANKFORT — The Environmental Protection Agency is expected to announce new carbon emissions standards Friday for U.S. coal-fired plants.

While EPA administrator Gina McCarthy told the House Committee on Energy and Commerce on Wednesday that “coal will continue to represent a significant portion of the energy supply in the decades to come,” many in coal-dependent Kentucky are fretting.

That’s understandable, given the loss of coal mining jobs in eastern Kentucky say observers from both the coal industry and environmental groups. Just this week, James River Coal announced layoffs of 500 miners in southeastern Kentucky.

Both sides are closely watching the candidates for the U.S. Senate, especially Republican incumbent Mitch McConnell and Democratic favorite Alison Lundergan Grimes.

On Tuesday, Grimes tried to get ahead of Friday’s announcement by asking Obama “to do the right thing” for Kentucky’s coal industry.

“As the EPA releases their new emissions standard this week, I call on the President to do the right thing and develop a policy that does not threaten Kentuckians’ livelihoods,” she said, adding she will “not stand idle” as new regulations affect coal jobs in Kentucky.

McConnell’s campaign fired back, claiming Grimes was recruited to run for the seat by Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid “who says coal makes us sick.” Reid is expected to hold a fundraiser in his home state of Nevada later this fall for Grimes.

The back-and-forth continued through the week.

McConnell released an ad criticizing what he calls the Obama administrations “war on coal,” and then repeated the charge in a floor speech Thursday while calling for a vote on a bill to he introduced to block the proposed EPA regulations.

In his speech, McConnell said the regulations expected Friday represent the latest “administration salvo in its never ending war on coal.” He said his bill “would essentially repeal the administration’s declaration of war against coal.” Reid blocked a vote but acknowledged how important coal is to Kentucky and other coal-producing states.

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