Claim that Beshear supports EPA's coal regulations false

September 30, 2011 

The Herald-Leader will fact-check claims made by the candidates for governor and their surrogates leading up to the Nov. 8 election.

The statement: "Beshear supports Obama's EPA plans that will drive out our coal jobs by driving up our energy costs."

— Restoring America, a group supporting Republican gubernatorial candidate David Williams, in a television ad this week attacking Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear.

The ruling: False

The facts: Throughout this fall's campaign for governor, Republican nominee David Williams has tried to tie Gov. Steve Beshear with Democratic President Obama, who is unpopular in the state.

Now, an independent political expenditure group called Restoring America, based in Columbus, Ohio, is running a 30-second TV ad that claims Beshear supports the Obama administration's regulation of the coal industry.

Beshear has repeatedly said just the opposite. A year ago, he directed the state to join a lawsuit filed by the Kentucky Coal Association against the federal Environmental Protection Agency to prevent it from blocking coal projects by refusing to grant required permits.

Beshear has called EPA's decisions "arbitrary and unreasonable," which "threaten to end the responsible mining of coal and eliminate the jobs of an estimated 18,000 Kentucky miners."

In his State of the Commonwealth Address to the legislature in February, Beshear told the EPA to "get off our backs."

The Associated Press reported Wednesday that Beshear sent Obama a letter this week on the issue after briefly talking with the president last week in Northern Kentucky.

Beshear asked the president to change federal policies on the coal permitting process, contending that federal regulations have unduly delayed 75 mining permits in Eastern Kentucky.

At least two Kentucky TV stations — WYMT in Hazard and WBKO in Bowling Green — and WEHT in Evansville, Ind., have stopped airing the Restoring America ad at the Beshear campaign's request.

Ernestine Cornett, general manager of WYMT, said in an email to the Beshear campaign that the political group has not provided "adequate substantiation" of the ad's claims.

The TV ad, in small letters at the bottom of the screen, notes two sources for its comments.

One is an Oct. 14, 2009, Lexington Herald-Leader article about a public hearing in Pikeville on proposed changes to a 1982 federal regulation allowing valleys to be filled with dirt and rock left over from mountaintop mining.

The newspaper article mentioned that the EPA put a hold on 49 valley-fill permits, but said nothing about Beshear.

The ad's second source regarding coal was an undated memo to members of Coal Operators and Associates from chairman Charles J. Baird. It was critical of the Obama administration and the EPA but said nothing about Beshear.

Jim Rutledge, a Columbus, Ohio, attorney who is chairman of Restoring America, has declined to comment on the ads or say who is funding them.

The independent group can accept unlimited contributions from individuals and corporations. Its contributors will not be public until next month. The group's initial filing with the state Registry of Election Finance earlier this week shows that Forcht Bank in Lexington is its depository bank.

The Williams' campaign has said it is not involved with Restoring America.

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