Coal Tattoo

Speaker Boehner gets big bucks from coal

In this Dec. 21, 1995, file photo Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, dumps out coal, his so-called Christmas gift to President Clinton, during a news conference on the federal budget on Capitol Hill. The White House and Congressional Republicans tried to restart balanced budget talks after the sixth day of a partial government shutdown. Then, as now in 2011, a Democratic president clashed over spending priorities with a recently installed Republican House majority. (AP Photo/Denis Paquin, File)

The Wall Street Journal has a story out today reporting (subscription required):

U.S. coal companies have pumped $1.5 million into House Speaker John Boehner’s political operation this year, a sign of the industry’s beefed-up efforts to fight new and proposed regulations from the Obama administration.

The coal industry now ranks as one of the top sources of cash for the Ohio Republican, rivaling such perennial GOP donors as Wall Street and the real-estate industry. A large part of the coal industry’s donations came in a single week at the end of June.

Donations from coal-industry interests account for more than 10% of the $12.5 million Mr. Boehner collected from Jan. 1 to June 30 for fund-raising accounts he directly controls. Mr. Boehner’s personal campaign account collected less than $200,000 from the coal industry during the entire 2009-10 election cycle.

The Journal story, and a blog post from Joe Romm at Climate Progress quoting the Journal, tied this contributions to the House’s moves to try to block various EPA actions to more strictly regulate coal mining and coal-fired power plant emissions:

The cash flowing to Mr. Boehner’s coffers stems partly from the GOP’s efforts to roll back the Obama administration’s environmental and energy policies since taking control of the House in 2010, and replace them with fewer regulations in order to boost domestic energy production. Republicans say proposals to curb pollution from coal-fired power plants and limit mining threaten to raise energy costs and stifle job-creation. The speaker has long been a backer of the coal industry, and many coal interests are based in his home state of Ohio.

In April, the House voted to prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse-gas emissions from coal-fired power plants and other industrial sources. In July, the House approved legislation that would limit the EPA’s authority to veto water permits previously issued by the Army Corps of Engineers. Other measures benefiting the coal industry are still moving through the House, though they have gone nowhere in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

The Journal also tried to connect all of this to the infamous Koch brothers, writing:

One top donor to Mr. Boehner this year has been William Koch, president of Oxbow Corp., which owns a coal-mining operation. Mr. Koch and his wife contributed a total of $70,000 to Mr. Boehner, according to fund-raising records. Two of Mr. Koch’s brothers are well-known Republican contributors.

“We are a big supporter of John Boehner. We think he is good for business,” said Brad Goldstein, a spokesman for Oxbow, based in West Palm Beach, Fla. “He looks out for business interests, and he wants to create more jobs for America, while this administration has been rather harsh on the industry.”

But the donor that jumped out at me was Murray Energy, which listed nearly $40,000 in donations to Speaker Boehner this election cycle, according to Open

Murry Energy and its owner, Bob Murray (above), are of course best known for the 2007 disaster that killed six miners and three rescue workers at the Crandall Canyon Mine in Utah.

As my buddy Mike Gorrell at the Salt Lake Tribune reminded us not long ago, there is still an ongoing criminal investigation of those deaths.  Federal regulators have already levied more than $1.8 million in civil fines for violations that caused the disaster.

Just last month, another miner died at one of Murray’s operations in Ohio. That death is still under investigation.

Of course, we all know that the GOP-controlled Congress — led by Boehner — has blocked efforts to pass the Robert C. Byrd Mine Safety Protection Act, drafted in response to last year’s Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster.