Mine safety, wind energy and Rand Paul moves – The Courier

July 5, 2014 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

There’s been a lot of back-and-forth in the Kentucky Senate race about the Obama administration’s policies on coal. Both Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who is seeking a sixth term, and his Democratic opponent, Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, have criticized President Barack Obama for imposing anti-pollution regulations that the two believe would hurt Kentucky’s coal industry.

On Thursday, Grimes took the discussion in a different direction, focusing on coal mine safety and miners’ claims for black lung, which is caused by prolonged exposure to excessive levels of coal dust.

Grimes visited the Hurricane Creek Mine Disaster Memorial in Hyden, where 38 miners died in 1970, on a campaign swing through Eastern Kentucky.

She also criticized McConnell for backing the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, even though it includes measures to help miners obtain black lung benefits.

Allison Moore, spokeswoman for McConnell’s campaign, countered that Grimes was just trying to mislead Kentuckians into seeing her as pro-coal.

The last time Congress passed major mine-safety legislation was in 2006, following accidents in Kentucky and West Virginia that killed a total of 19 miners. McConnell co-sponsored the Senate bill.

Subsequent efforts to build on that legislation, including providing additional protections for whistleblowers, have stalled.

Current House and Senate mine-safety bills are bogged down in committees.

Grimes said in a statement released by her campaign that she supports the Senate bill and as a senator would work to pass similar legislation. She said she also backed a Senate measure aimed at making it easier for miners to receive black lung benefits. Both Senate bills are sponsored by Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va.

McConnell’s campaign said Grimes was “slapping her name on another liberal senator’s bill,” calling it a stunt.

But the senator’s campaign did not respond to a question about whether the senator supports either bill.

Wind energy fight: Rep. Ed Whitfield, a fierce defender of the coal industry, is challenging the Obama administration over a “green energy” project off the Massachusetts coast.

The Republican congressman, who represents Kentucky’s 1st Disrict, is chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s energy and power subcommittee. He charged last week that the Department of Energy’s commitment to a $150 million loan guarantee for an array of wind turbines off Cape Cod is “reckless” and said he will try to stop it.

Although you would never know it to look around Kentucky, where coal is king, many parts of the country are increasing the use of wind turbines to generate electricity.

In fact, Kentucky is now only one of 11 states that do not use any wind power to generate electricity,

according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Nationwide, electricity generation from wind increased from about 6 billion kilowatt hours in 2000 to around 168 billion kilowatt hours in 2013, the EIA reports.

Whitfield, however, doesn’t like the looks of Cape Wind, as the $2.5 billion Massachusetts project is called.

“We’ve seen time and time again this administration provide billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money for green energy projects that have failed, leaving taxpayers on the hook. I have a number of concerns with this administration’s reckless decision to back Cape Wind,” Whitfield said in a statement.

He’ll get pushback from Massachusetts Democrats like Sen. Edward Markey, who said the project “will help Massachusetts make energy history and continue our leadership as a clean energy jobs hub for the entire nation.”

Iowa hire by Paul: While Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul has made no decision about running for president in 2016, he just made a 2016-looking move in Iowa.

The Republican lawmaker has beefed up his Iowa political operation by hiring former Iowa GOP Chairman Steve Grubbs to be his chief strategist in the state.

“If we’re to be successful in putting together an effective organization to advance the cause of liberty and freedom, we need to have successful state operations,” Paul said in a statement released by his political action committee, RANDPAC. “Steve’s experience as state chair, serving in the Iowa legislature and working for five previous presidential campaigns will help us build on what we already have in place.”

Paul already has A.J. Spiker, another former Iowa Republican Party chairman, on the RANDPAC team.

Paul, Bush gain on Clinton: Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton remains the 2016 presidential front-runner, but her leads over two potential Republican challengers, Paul and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, are narrowing, according to the latest Zogby Analytics poll.

Clinton now leads Bush 47 percent to 35 percent, the survey finds. That 12-point margin contrasts with Clinton’s 18-point advantage over Bush in a similar March poll and a 19-point lead over him in May.

Clinton now has a similar 12-point lead over Paul, 48 percent to 36 percent, according to the poll. That contrasts with Clinton’s 21-point lead over the Kentuckian in March and her 17-point advantage in May.

Reporter James R. Carroll can be reached at (703) 854-8945. Follow him on Twitter @JRCarrollCJ.

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