Recently, a liberal group known for its anti-coal policies and for supporting socialist Bernie Sanders leveled charges against our senior senator, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
The group claimed that Senator McConnell has done nothing for coal communities, which couldn’t be further from the truth. Their claim isn’t simply inaccurate, it’s insincere.
Members of this liberal group protest coal plants, organize against coal jobs, and celebrate when plants close and miners are put out of work. They advocate for a future without coal, which for generations has been the lifeblood of many communities throughout Kentucky. The policies they advocate directly contribute to fewer coal jobs in Eastern Kentucky. It’s utterly hypocritical to say you support miners while actively working to take away their paychecks.
On the other hand, Senator McConnell has spent his career defending coal miners, their families, and retirees. As Senate Majority Leader, he stands up for rural America, making Kentucky’s priorities national priorities. Without him, Kentucky would be left with San Francisco’s Nancy Pelosi, who wants to close one-third of America’s coal plants and put around 23,000 Americans out of work.
When President Obama declared War on Coal, Senator McConnell stood strong defending our communities. He used every mechanism possible to prevent harmful regulations from putting coal miners out of work. To fight unprecedented—and probably unconstitutional—federal overreach by the Obama administration, our senator mobilized the nation’s governors and joined the fight against its anti-coal policies in court.
The election of President Donald Trump in 2016 brought a friend of coal to the White House. Senator McConnell sent a letter to Trump before the inauguration, identifying several important ways they could work together to repair the damage Obama left behind. Almost immediately, the Trump administration and the Republican Senate did just that.
Senator McConnell introduced and shepherded to enactment the repeal of the Stream Buffer Rule, which threatened to put up to one-third of coal miners out of work. President Trump announced the end of the so-called “Clean Power Plan,” which sought to close nearly every American coal plant and send your energy bills skyrocketing. Recently, the Trump administration proposed a new, coal-friendly plan to produce American energy while also protecting the environment—goals the President understands don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
As we all know, the War on Coal left lasting damage on Kentucky. Thousands of workers lost their jobs, saw their pensions and retirements threatened, and their communities’ resources drained. The region has made strides along the path to recovery, and Senator McConnell has delivered federal resources to help revitalize Appalachian communities.
Through programs like the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) and the Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation Economic Development Pilot Program, Senator McConnell and Congressman Hal Rogers are securing tens of millions of dollars to support economic growth in Eastern Kentucky. These resources are helping create jobs, fight the opioid and substance abuse epidemic, and provide employment training for former coal miners to develop new skills for new careers.
In fact, Senator McConnell helped deliver nearly $30 million in competitive federal grants for the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program to serve dislocated coal miners and workers throughout the region. When regulations threatened access to federal student aid programs at Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College, Senator McConnell secured a provision to protect students’ ability to pursue higher education in this region.
The senator also used his influence in Washington to bolster Eastern Kentucky tourism, attracting new sources of revenue to local communities. Senator McConnell called on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to dedicate increased resources for the cleanup of Fishtrap Lake, a major destination for fishers and boaters in in the region. With Congressman Rogers, he also secured over $12 million for an Appalachian wildlife viewing area in Bell County. And the pair introduced legislation, recently signed into law, designating Mill Springs Battlefield as a National Monument to preserve Kentucky’s contributions during the Civil War and draw new visitors.
Anyone who attacks Senator McConnell’s accomplishments for families and coal communities isn’t paying attention. The vast majority of Kentuckians are grateful to Senator McConnell for his steadfast commitment to helping families get back on their feet after the War on Coal.
Tyler White is the president of the Kentucky Coal Association, which helps inform communities about the coal industry and its vital role in Kentucky’s future.
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