For that, they make no apologies. They contend their embattled industry is facing unprecedented attacks from politicians and federal agencies bent on coal’s total demise as a major fuel source in the United States.
Heading up the effort is International Coal Group, based in Scott Depot, W.Va. “There are those of us in the coal industry who are clearly concerned about the attack on the coal industry, and by extension, the jobs of each and every one of those workers, directly or indirectly, employed by the coal industry,” said Roger Nicholson, ICG senior vice president and general counsel. Nicholson said the Obama administration, through the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Congress “controlled by Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid” are taking steps to ultimately eliminate coal production and its use. “We believe these goals are disastrous for Kentucky and West Virginia, and would constitute an egregious national energy policy that would make us more, not less, dependent on foreign governments.”
Last winter, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled labor unions and corporations can spend unlimited amounts of money on elections by creating a nonprofit group under Section 527 of the Internal Revenue Code–hence the ‘527’ reference.
Two politicians who may be in the industry’s crosshairs are Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway, a Democrat running against Republican nominee Rand Paul for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Jim Bunning, a Republican, and incumbent U.S. Representative Ben Chandler, also a Democrat and former Kentucky attorney general. Rand Paul is the son of Ron Paul, a Texas congressman and member of the GOP.
Nicholson noted that Chandler voted for cap-and-trade, which if enacted would amount to tax on average citizens and would undermine the benefit to Kentucky and West Virginia businesses and consumers of low-cost energy. Chandler also is a sponsor of H.R. 1310, a bill intended to ban valley fills and “therefore eliminate most coal mining in Appalachia.” Conway, he added, “has made statements that call into serious question whether he would be willing to stand up to Harry Reid and the Obama administration on the important questions of cap-and-trade and rational mine permitting.”
Kentucky Coal Association President Bill Bissett said the KCA and its staff are not involved in any 527s. “However, some of our member companies are considering communicating with the voters regarding the position of incumbents on issues that relate to coal mining and Kentucky’s economy,” he said.
He added: “At a time when the Gallup Poll reports that U.S. citizens have the lowest confidence in Congress (11%) since the Poll began asking the question in 1973, it is important that voters know where our elected officials stand on issues that directly affect Kentucky jobs and our economy. The 2010 election is a critical time for the United States and I hope voters learn as much as possible regarding the positions of candidates before they cast their ballot.”
Some media accounts suggested that mine-safety legislation is a key driver of the potential 527 initiative. ICG owned the Sago mine in West Virginia where 12 miners died in an explosion on January 2, 2006.
Nicholson denied such motivation. “Our primary focus is on protecting a core job-producing industry from destruction through overzealous and unproductive environmental regulation,” he insisted. “The coal industry is not opposed to reasonable and appropriate legislation that will truly improve mine safety. The notion that mine safety is not important to the industry is absurd; the costs of safety lapses far outweigh, in both human and monetary costs, any alleged monetary gains by cutting safety corners.” (Bob Matyi)