Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

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May 12, 2014

Grimes calls for Stanford to reverse coal divestment decision

ASHLAND — Likely Democrat U.S. Senate candidate Alison Grimes launched her 50-county jobs tour last week, just as news broke of Stanford University's decision to divest its stock in coal companies, which could jeopardize many Eastern Kentucky jobs.

Needless to say, she is not happy.

Following a report in the New York Times about Stanford's divestment decision in any company whose primary business is mining coal, Grimes penned a letter to University President John L. Hennessy on May 8, to voice her disapproval.

She is currently hoping to take the place of current Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in this year's elections, but is battling claims from McConnell that accuse her of disloyalty toward the coal industry.

With a large portion of voters deeply, and generationally, invested in this industry, the pressure is on for her to crush these accusations.

In the beginning of her letter to Hennessy, she said the decision is “bad environmental policy and bad energy policy, and it sets a poor standard indeed for national citizenship.”

The divestment in coal companies does not just affect Kentuckians, though that is her main priority, but has consequences for other coal-producing states in the Appalachia region, an area “already beset by economic hardship,” she said.

She also said this decision is unjustifiable when it will “push tens of thousands of one's own countrymen to the brink of poverty, and perhaps beyond.”

As she travels across the state to inform voters of how she would get Kentuckians “back to work,” this in support of the coal industry further illuminates the message she is trying to shout above opposing attack ads: that she is a friend of coal.

In this jobs plan, Grimes calls out officials of both parties in Washington who famously oppose the business.

“Washington Democrats and Republicans need to be realistic about what powers our nation,” she said. “I call on the president to do the right thing and develop an energy policy that does not threaten Kentuckians' livelihoods and that gives Americans the benefits of our coal resources."

She said her call for Stanford to reverse its divestment decision is a move that appeals to some of the main principles of her plan.

“(It’s) a continued effort to support the foundation of that plan, which is maintining jobs in Kentucky, some of which are coal jobs, and continuing to diversify the economy,” she said in a phone interview Monday. “The basin of my plan is growing the middle class. Here, in this state, we have been, and continue to be, a supporter of the coal mines and coal miners. We have to remember those who are keeping the lights on in Kentucky.”

In the NYT article, it said the reasoning behind the university’s divestment was “coal’s status as a major source of carbon pollution linked to climate change.”

Grimes acknowledged the reality of global climate change in her letter to Hennesy, but said the solutions are not to impose a complete and drastic economic change, such as abandoning coal mining companies.

“Solutions require a balanced environmental, technological and economic approach,” she wrote. “In the case of coal, the most urgent need is further development of carbon separation and storage technology.”

With that being said, she added in the letter that these solutions are possible, but need to be made economically feasible, something reputable research schools like Stanford could play a crucial role in.

Her extensive bus tour through the Commonwealth will last 10 days and make stops in 50 counties, having her on the road right until the May 20 primary election.

In response to Grimes’ jobs tour, spokeswoman for the Kentucky GOP Kelsey Cooper said, ““As if Alison Lundergan Grimes hasn’t spent enough time abandoning her duties as Secretary of State in favor of hobnobbing with Barack Obama and Harry Reid’s liberal elite pals for the last eight months, she’s now choosing to spend even more time putting personal political gain ahead of the promise she made to serve Kentuckians.”

Grimes will be making local stops on her bus tour in Rowan, Boyd and Johnson counties tomorrow.

According to her schedule, she will be in Morehead at the Zane Collins Community Park at 3:30 p.m.; in Ashland at the United Steel Workers Hall at 5:30 p.m.; in Paintsville at Dairy Queen at 7:30 p.m.

LANA BELLAMY can be reached at lbellamy@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2653.

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