McConnell voices concerns of coal country on Senate floor

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WYMT) - Kentucky's senior senator says the Environmental Protection Agency will not listen to the concerns of coal country.

Mitch McConnell presented his findings to lawmakers from a set of hearings held earlier this month in Pikeville to gather input from locals about how the EPA is affecting the region.

The EPA held so-called "listening sessions" earlier this year in several major cities to gather input from the public, but steered clear of coal towns.

McConnell told lawmakers coal is vital to Eastern Kentucky, and the EPA should listen to what it has to say.

Senator McConnel says he held the Pikeville listening session to put a "human face" on the toll he maintains the E-P-A is taking on Eastern Kentucky.

"They don't think about the consequences, and I might add, without bothering to meet face to face with the people they hurt," he said.

He says the EPA should have held a listening session of their own in coal country, so that mountain voices could be heard.

"The closest one to Eastern Kentucky was in Atlanta, requiring Kentuckians to make a 14-hour round trip drive simply to attend."

One retired coal miner from Harlan county is not convinced McConnell's words are sincere.

Carl Shoupe, who is also a member of Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, says he thinks the senator is using coal as a wedge issue.

"We see the fact that coal is on the decline. It's been on the decline for the last 30 years, and he's been in office for 30 years and hasn't done a thing to diversify the economy in Eastern Kentucky," he said.

McConnell says Eastern Kentucky must look for some economic opportunities beyond coal to secure its future, but for now coal is key and the fight is not over.

McConnell staffers say Tuesday they delivered every comment and testimony from the Pikeville hearings to the offices of the EPA.

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