In acontinuing attempt to mend ties with coal producing parts of the countryfollowing controversial comments regarding the future of the industry,Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton traveled to West Virginia and Kentuckythis week, but found few willing to listen.
Atevents held this week, Clinton stressed the need for investment in communitiesmost impacted by the industry downturn, including a $30 aid she has previously proposed.Calling for a "Marshall Plan" for the region, Clinton promisedsupport for the region whether she received its support on Election Day or not.
Thetrip comes about a month and a half after Clinton the words, "I'm the onlycandidate which has a policy about how to bring economic opportunity usingclean renewable energy as the key into coal country, because we're going to puta lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business, right?" at anevent in Ohio.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton
WhileClinton went on to say "… andwe're going to make it clear that we don't want to forget those people" ina discussion about providing funding for those communities most impacted by theindustry downturn, coal advocates seizedon the comment as proof that the candidate would continue Obama administrationpolicies that have proven to be so unpopular in producing parts of the country.
Hoping to make amends, Clinton travelled to bothstates this week to discuss the industry slowdown and her aid package. Thevisit comes after Clinton reached out to Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., to say shewas "mistaken with her remarks."
While she sought to clarify her comments, Clintondid not back away from outlining the challenges facing the industry beyondfederal policies, telling an Ashland, Ky., audience that supporting options forcontinuing coal use could only go so far.
"Even if we do what we need to do with carbon capture andsequestration, like speed up research, it's unlikely we're going to return tothat level of employment, so then we've got to figure out through, what I'dcall a Marshall Plan, what we're going to do to support the economy, boost itup and provide good paying jobs — that's one of the biggest challenges we face,"Clinton said.
Accompanied by Manchin in West Virginia, Clintonwas greeted by some protestors and a cold reception from the local industry, whichdismissed her attempts to clarify her remarks and apologize.
BillRaney, president of the West Virginia Coal Association, attacked Clinton's Ohioremarks, saying that since she made them, she has failed to match her words andactions.
"Sincethen she has flip-flopped at every turn — conveniently apologizing for hercomments, claiming she 'made a mistake' — then doubling down on them with othergroups in other parts of the country, echoing Obama by saying dealing with 'climatechange' is imperative," Raney said.
Raneydismissed Clinton's $30 billion plan, calling it "patronizing" to the"professional coal miners and all those who have depended on our coalmines operating every day, by suggesting that a check from Washington willsomehow be an adequate replacement for their good-paying jobs with benefits,much less allowing them to maintain their families' standard of living!"
ForClinton critics like Raney, the comments provided another link to Obamaadministration policies that are often cited as catalysts for the broaderindustry downturn.
"Obamapromised this devastation eight years ago and he's made it happen with completedisregard for Congress, illegal rulemaking and every other underhandedbureaucratic move imaginable, and, so far, based on everything she has beensaying (except for the convenient apologies), absolutely indicates she intendsto continue Obama's War on Coal," Raney said.
BillBissett, president of the Kentucky Coal Association, echoed those sentiments,saying that given Clinton's comments in recent weeks, "it's a question ofwhich Hillary Clinton you believe."
Bissettadded that while coal regions like eastern Kentucky could clearly benefit fromfederal financial assistance programs like Clinton's, he worried that it wouldbe seen as "transactional," suggesting the acceptance of federalpolicies seen as detrimental to the industry as a whole. "I'dsupport any assistance to the region, but we're not going to forget who causedthese problems in the first place," Bissett said.
Hesuggested that Clinton's trip to Kentucky was to shore up support ahead of the state'sDemocratic primary and Clinton would be unlikely to visit again any time soon.
InKentucky, where coal employment has droppedto its lowest level since 1898, Clinton repeated her support for the industry,alongside broader comments about health care access.
Whileher arrival drew little support from coal advocates, including laid off miners,her presence in the state provided ample opportunities for down-ticketcandidates to show their support for the ailing industry.
"AsKentucky's hardworking coal miners and their families continue to endure thevery real and devastating effects of the Obama-Clinton War on Coal, I doubtthey are excited to have the person who promised to put them out of workpersonally rubbing her anti-coal, anti-Kentucky agenda in their faces today,"said Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who is facing a challenge in November. "HillaryClinton's apology is long overdue, and I am calling on her to apologize today,and in person, as she faces the Kentuckians suffering under her War on Coal."
"Kentuckyvoters will hold her accountable alright — for the long war on coal waged bythe Obama administration that she has vowed to continue," Doug Stafford,Paul's campaign's chief strategist, said. "She owes Kentucky an apology,not vague platitudes and false promises."
Linkingcandidates with the Obama administration's energy and environmental policieshas proven to be aneffective tool in recent elections, including Republican Senate Majority LeaderMitch McConnell saddling his 2014 opponent with the connection on his way to adecisive victory.
Thestate's Democratic Party declined to comment on whether Clinton's visit andremarks regarding the industry would impact Kentucky Democrats in November.
Clinton'scampaign could not be reached for comment on her visit to the region.