In his earlier years, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was inclined to weigh environmental concerns against economic prospects when considering a proposed coal plant, according to a report Tuesday in the Hazard Herald of Kentucky.
The Kentucky paper looked back to news reports and documents related to a 1984 proposal to build a coal-crushing plant and convert a dock for receiving coal that McConnell considered while serving as Jefferson County Judge-Executive. McConnell, the paper reports, wanted the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to evaluate the impact the proposal would have on the community and environment.
"Although I advocate economic and job expansion, it must not occur to the detriment of our environment," McConnell wrote in a letter to a constituent, according to the paper. "As I am sure you know, we have similar strong feelings regarding the proposal [of the plant]. Its approval would undermine any potential for the aesthetic future of the Upper Ohio Riverfront," he wrote in another letter.
In the Senate and on the campaign trail this year, McConnell has emerged as defender of coal interests, fighting proposed rules from the Environmental Protection Agency that would limit emissions from coal-fired power plants and painting his Democratic challenger as anti-coal.
In a statement to the paper, the McConnell campaign dismissed the insinuation that the older case suggests anything about the senator's position on coal. "The inference that a lifetime coal supporter didn't support this development because of coal is beyond absurd, especially since Senator McConnell even offered to help secure federal grants to help them build the facility at a different location," said his press secretary Allison Moore.