Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Coal could be deciding factor in U.S. Senate race in Kentucky

It's no secret that coal is playing a large role in political campaigns across central Appalachia, and in Kentucky the issue may end up deciding whether Democrat Jack Conway or Republican Rand Paul wins the state's contested U.S. Senate seat. "In Western Kentucky, one concern is that cap and trade would cause higher rates for electricity produced by burning coal, hurting two large aluminum smelters that employ 1,500 people and support thousands more jobs," Bill Estep of the Lexington Herald-Leader reports. "In Eastern Kentucky, where coal is an economic linchpin, companies and many miners fear tougher environmental regulation will cripple surface mining."

Bell County Judge-Executive Albey Brock predicts coal will be the deciding factor in who wins the eastern counties. "On Election Day, when they go vote, how (Conway and Paul) stand on coal is how these counties are going to go," Brock, a Republican, told Estep. Among the issues is the candidates' stance on cap-and-trade, which both say they oppose. Paul rejected cap-and-trade early on, and claims Conway originally supported the proposal before changing his mind, which the Conway campaign denies.

"When asked whether Congress should do anything to limit greenhouse-gas emissions, Conway said the government needs to invest in technology that would allow coal to be burned more cleanly," Estep writes. "Paul said any discussion of whether the government should move to limit emissions should acknowledge that the nation’s skies already are much cleaner than 30 years ago." Conway told Estep he believed the science behind global warming was "fairly well established on that." Paul was less clear in his opinions on climate change, saying "I think anyone who makes an absolute conclusion is probably overstating their conclusion."

Paul's general platform of reducing government's role on many fronts includes a lessened role for the Environmental Protection Agency. Conway told Estep water-quality standards must be met and that the EPA has a role in policing coal, but the agency doesn’t need to "come in and legislate." Paul also said earlier reports that he was against any federal oversight of mine safety were wrong, but he generally favored local control over federal. (Read more)

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