The Kentucky Opportunity Coalition is set to begin running radio ads in Kentucky’s coal-producing counties boasting of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s pushback against what it calls President Barack Obama’s “war on coal.”
The group, a 501(c)4 non-profit organization that is allied with McConnell, has spent $75,000 to air the 60-second spot in 28 counties. It touts McConnell’s “Saving Coal Jobs Act.”
“There is nothing funny about what they’ve done to Central Appalachia and the Eastern Kentucky coal fields,” McConnell says in the ad. “They want us to sit down and shut up, and I’m telling you we’re not going to take it any longer, we’re going to fight back.”
Scott Jennings, senior adviser to the coalition and a former aide to McConnell, said McConnell “is fighting to save Kentucky jobs from Barack Obama’s job-killing regulations, which have already cost us thousands of jobs and put families and communities at risk.”
The group also is urging supporters to sign a petition in support of McConnell’s proposed legislation.
Under the proposal, which stands little chance of passage in the Democratic-led U.S. Senate, the federal government would face a deadline to issue or deny surface-mining permits.
The EPA has held up about three dozen surface-mine permits in Eastern Kentucky since 2010. The state issued the permits, but federal regulators objected, saying conditions the permits imposed on the coal companies would be inadequate to protect water quality.
There are fewer people employed in coal mining in Kentucky than at any point since the state started tracking the number in 1927. Nearly all the losses have been in Eastern Kentucky, where 2,232 coal workers were laid off in 2013.
Many people in Eastern Kentucky believe tougher federal rules to protect air and water quality are to blame for the sharp downturn in coal production and jobs, but analysts say the picture is more complex. Environmental policies have played a role in the decline, but so have competition from low-priced natural gas and coal from other parts of the country, the depletion of coal reserves in Eastern Kentucky, and higher mining costs in the region.