Kentucky House Speaker Moving Ahead With Peabody Meeting

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - House Speaker Jody Richards will go ahead with plans to meet with Peabody Energy's chief executive officer even though Gov. Ernie Fletcher hasn't responded to his invitation to take part.

"We're anxious to continue our work on this issue, so we will start making arrangements for the meeting," Richards said Monday.

Peabody Energy Corp. has expressed an interest in building a $3 billion plant to convert coal to synthetic natural gas. If the company's chief executive will agree to build the plant in Kentucky, Richards said House lawmakers would pass legislation to provide some $300 million worth of financial incentives for the project.

Richards has invited both Fletcher and Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, to travel with him to St. Louis for the meeting.

"My message to the governor and senate president: 'I am saving you a seat on the plane,"' Richards said.

Fletcher spokeswoman Jodi Whitaker didn't immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

Fletcher had called lawmakers to Frankfort for a special legislative session earlier this month to deal with the Peabody issue.

However, House Democratic lawmakers, saying Fletcher's decision to call them back to Frankfort was unnecessary and too costly to be justified, adjourned the same day the session began without taking any action.

Fletcher, a first-term Republican, is running for re-election this fall.

Democratic lawmakers claim he called the special session and included potentially volatile issues on the agenda to energize his political base. Along with the Peabody initiative, Fletcher included a measure that could prohibit public universities from providing health insurance benefits to domestic partners.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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