The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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August 7, 2013

Kentucky lawmakers lash out at Obama's 'war on coal'

FRANKFORT, Ky. — A bi-partisan group of 50 Kentucky lawmakers has appealed to President Obama to show greater sympathy for and grant relief to the nation's beleaguered coal industry.

Democratic Speaker Greg Stumbo, who represents coal-producing Floyd County in Eastern Kentucky, and 49 other members of the Kentucky House sent a letter to Obama objecting to his administration’s “unfair attack on coal.”

In June, Obama proposed stricter air quality emission standards to deal with climate change, accelerating the move from coal to natural gas by electrical utilities and large manufacturers.

Obama’s proposals include provisions to mitigate the impact on coal-producing regions but the lawmakers’ letter says they’re insufficient and the letter calls for more investment in “clean coal technology.”

It says “coal is not just an energy source, it’s a way of life” in Kentucky, contributing $10 billion to Kentucky’s 2010 economy. It goes on to say lawmakers have “deep concern” the new climate policies will make matters worse.

So far, Stumbo said, the White House had not responded to the letter, which was sent to the president last Friday.

Stumbo said the letter “was prompted both by the president’s June speech on climate change and by a desire to establish a new way forward when it comes to coal, a trend that is starting to take shape nationally.” 

Kentucky is the nation’s third-largest coal producing state, after Wyoming and West Virginia, and generates 90 percent of its electricity from coal-fired plants. The state’s cheap electrical rates, third lowest in the country, are a large reason Kentucky is home to three automobile assembly plants and two aluminum smelters.

Coal is mined in 22 counties in Eastern Kentucky and seven in the western part of the state, but the declining coal market has devastated Eastern Kentucky, already plagued by high unemployment rates and one of the nation’s poorest regions.

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