Floyd County Times
PIKEVILLE — Just days before a summit to discuss ways to create an economy less dependent on coal, U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell held his own gathering to shine a light on the impact environmental regulations are having on the ailing industry.
McConnell was at the University of Pikeville Friday to host a “listening session” on the human and financial impact caused by the coal industry’s woes, just three days before the Shaping Our Appalachian Region summit.
But while the focus of the SOAR summit was to prepare for a life beyond coal, McConnell was not quite ready to throw in the towel on the industry that has shed over 6,000 jobs in the past two years and is expected to trim its workforce by half again over the next five years.
“It is obviously vital that we consider Eastern Kentucky’s future,” McConnell said. “But it is equally important that we not give up on Eastern Kentucky’s present. And coal is key to the present in Eastern Kentucky.”
McConnell organized the listening session after his requests that the Environmental Protection Agency hold hearings on proposed power plant regulations in Appalachia went ignored.
“Since the EPA will not come to Pikeville to hear your message, I will deliver Pikeville’s message to them,” McConnell said. “I have called today’s session so that those in the region affected by this administration’s War on Coal will finally have a chance to be heard, just as I personally spoke on behalf of Kentuckians at a recent EPA hearing in Washington. And following the testimony today, I plan on taking the experiences you share with me directly to the EPA, so it can hear from all of us how President Obama’s War on Coal is negatively affecting our coal miners and economy in Eastern Kentucky.”
Friday’s hearing was organized into three five-person panels, representing industry interests, private citizens and public officials. Those testifying before McConnell all shared examples of how the coal industry’s recent struggles were having an impact on individuals and across the broader economy — problems they blamed on over-reaching regulations.