State environmental group forms political action committee

September 17, 2010 | | Comments 27

By Dori Hjalmarson –

Long out-gunned by the Kentucky coal industry’s political connections, the non-profit group Kentuckians for the Commonwealth said Friday it has created a new political action committee focused on coal and energy.

Leaders acknowledged that they won’t be able to match coal industry money flowing into election campaigns, but the New Power PAC will start with $100,000 of seed money from KFTC dues, Communications Director Jerry Hardt said.

“We don’t have a dorm named after us or anything like that,” said Megan Naseman, of Richmond, a KFTC steering committee member, referring to a University of Kentucky decision to build Wildcat Coal Lodge, funded with $7 million raised by a group spearheaded by Alliance Coal President Joe Craft.

“We know how to stretch a dollar,” Naseman said.

The committee is not planning to endorse or fund any candidates, group leaders said Friday, but it plans to spend money on issue ads that lay out where candidates stand.

Coal industry officials said they will take KFTC’s latest move seriously.

“One hundred thousand dollars is a lot of money to me, and while they say they’re only going to get involved in issues, I’m sure their long range goal is to attack candidates who understand the importance of coal and affordable power,” said Bill Bissett, president of the Kentucky Coal Association, which has its own statewide PAC that received contributions from individuals.

KFTC might not have a large budget, he said, but groups such as the Sierra Club, with similar aims, do have large coffers.

The mining industry, largely representing coal interests, has given about $1.6 million to candidates’ election campaigns this year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Electric utility PACs have given $9.9 million. And “single issue” environmental PACs have given just over $307,000, including about $25,000 from the Sierra Club’s PAC.

Coal now generates about 50 percent of the country’s electricity, and more than 90 percent of Kentucky’s.

“If coal truly had to pay for all of its cost … other energy sources would be on an even playing field,” said former KFTC chairwoman Teri Blanton.

Advocates of non-coal energy sources argue coal is not as cheap as its supporters claim because costs such as environmental damage are not factored into the equation.

Political leaders should push for energy efficiency, instead of building new coal-fired power plants, KFTC said in a news conference Friday.

Taxpayer-funded subsidies of coal mining tie the state’s future to a resource that is finite and dwindling, they said. And a broader “energy portfolio” that includes solar, wind and biofuel energy as a supplement to coal is better for Kentuckians in the long run, they said.

Efficiency is good, Bissett said, but “with conservative estimates showing an electricity demand increase of 40 percent by 2025, we need to continue to expand our ability to generate electricity.”

KFTC members have a history of opposing coal industry interests, but the group has felt “hamstrung” by restrictions placed on it by its non-profit status, former KFTC chairwoman Teri Blanton said.

KFTC is a 501(c)4 organization, so it can legally lobby for legislation and participate in political activity. But forming a PAC lets the group funnel more resources into politics and “gives us the ability to name politicians by name,” Blanton said.

The group has about 7,000 members — tripled in the last three years, Blanton said — who pay annual dues in the range of $15 to $50 a year.

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  1. fyre says:

    I hate big coal.

  2. Nancy says:

    Coal companies are leading the way in campaings of misinformation, and they have alot of money to do it with.

  3. sane says:

    If these folks had their way everyone would freeze to death in the dark.

  4. Lacy Caudill says:

    As a supporter of KFTC, I hope they list the politicians who will work with us and listen to us. There is a KFTC supporter, Raul Urias, running against a coal operator in Pike County, State Representative Keith Hall. We need to support him. Also, Leslie Combs has a tool of the coal industry running against her, Roger Ford, in Letcher and Pike County County. If you can elect people who are more for the mountains and not the coal companies, then everyone will be better off. Hall and Ford are not for the people, they’re are for the big coal companies destorying our mountains.

  5. Michelle Nicholson says:

    I hear my fellow KYians screaming to repeal Obamacare. A recent analysis by Micheal Hendryx showed that coal costs KY ten times what it pays, when health outcomes are taken into account.

    Check out the KY 21st Century Bill of Rights to see how coal manipulates Kentuckians. I’m not anti-business, but these companies are not pro Kentucky.

  6. Dave says:

    Go KFTC!

  7. Floyd's Nob says:

    I love their chicken.

  8. TB says:

    Well I get my energy from methane from land fills and my heating fuel from natural gas.

  9. Darnell says:

    A great idea. I hope that KFTC has enough money to knock off about 75% of Kentucky’s legislature. Nothing but a bunch of shills for the coal industry.

  10. Go back to 1930. Support the proposal to build a dam across BOTH forks of the Licking River at Falmouth, Ky. Use the natural resource that God gave us. The amount of power and available clean water would be enormous, and thousands of jobs would become available. Just think of the tourism taxes from Ohio and Indiana.

  11. eKY says:

    Yes! Kentucky needs NEW POWER. I signed the pledge at the link in the article. If you think it’s time for New Power, go sign it to:

    Here’s the pledge:

    “It’s time for New Power! I pledge to support candidates and elected officials who will work for New Power policies that create clean energy jobs, affordable renewable energy, and healthy communities and that address the problems created by old power fossil fuels.”

  12. JDub says:

    Hate to tell you this Lacy but I am from Pikeville and Raul whoever has less than zero chance of beating Hall and leslie Combs who I know extremly well is in favor of coal just as much as if not more than Roger whom I also know very well. you people can complain about coal all you want but its not going anywhere it powers over 48% of our nation’s energy demand and is plentiful and cheap and when mined properly has very little environemental impact. so give it up!!! your wasting your time and money, however it is your time and your money so waste it however you wish.but coal is here to stay.

  13. Buck Feshear says:

    Back when KFTC was the Kentucky Fair Tax Coalition, they did good work and were to be commended. Now they are just another bunch of tree huggers who are against private property rights.

  14. rambo says:

    i see kentuckians for total communism is at it again.

  15. Darnell says:

    Sorry, JDub, but coal certainly isn’t here to stay. A non-renewable resource, look it up.

    The big bone of contention is mountaintop removal, which accounts for less than 10% of our national coal supply. Give the industry a year or two to ramp up production in the Powder River Basin and no one would miss it at all.

  16. Big Ben 4 liberty says:

    I honestly can’t believe the bogus junk science claims of the Enviro-fascists for Their Elitist Idea of a Commonwealth! They truly believe that their are actual viable alternatives to coal energy other than nuclear power which they probably hate even more than coal (I’m not totally up with all the tenets of the Green religious theocracy).

    I guess when you have that much faith in your junk science cult, that somehow, with the right amount of government money, they find the magic pixie dust that will replace all fossil fuels.

  17. […] Read the original here: State environmental group forms political action committee … […]

  18. Ish says:

    I am going to join Kentuckians for the Commonwealth. Sounds liek a group that has some moxie! Need more of them not less….

  19. Jess says:

    We need to be looking at ways to protect ourselves from rising energy costs, like other states have, by investing in efficiency and using clean energy. Coal jobs have been declining for years. There’s no good reason we can’t shift those jobs to clean energy jobs.

    But the politicians are holding us back. It’s ridiculous to still be subsiding coal, when it costs us so much. Our political system is corrupted and bought off by coal, and that needs to stop. They should be representing the best interests of the people, not the coal industry.

    I hope people get behind KFTC’s effort. It’s our best chance to clean up politics.

  20. InTheKnow says:

    I will vote fro keeping the lights on.

  21. RARJR says:

    One day, soon…. MTR will be widely viewed as a moral sin, like we now view slavery. Big Coal thugs are not for KY, but for profits, at KY’s expense. Anybody that is for Big Coal, has already been bought and paid for. Some peoples price is very cheap.

  22. […] State environmental group forms political action committee … […]

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  24. Darnell says:

    Big Ben, you’re seriously deluded if you think you understand anything about the movement against mountain top removal. Been drinking too much of that Sweet Tea?

    You don’t know the people who are behind this PAC. They’re anything but elitist. Go ahead and ignore them. It’s far easier to cling to your own petty biases than it is to think for yourself.

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