Jeb Bush was scheduled to speak Monday to a gathering of coal industry titans who oppose the Obama administration’s environmental regulations and are eager for a new president.
According to an invite obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy, the former Florida governor was to speak Monday morning at the “Coal & Investment Leadership Forum” -- an invite-only, closed door event in Virginia hosted by Jim McGlothlin, the founder of the United Coal Co., along with Alliance Resource Partners, Alpha Natural Resources, Consol Energy, Drummond Company, and Arch Coal.
The coal industry has been staggered by competition from cheap and cleaner-burning natural gas, but also blames federal environmental rules for its struggles. President Barack Obama’s efforts to fight climate change have been aimed at the coal industry, which considers the regulations part of a “War on Coal” and hopes the next president will reverse or slow regulations.
The industry is fighting in particular the Obama administration’s plan to slash the emissions of planet-warming gases from coal-fired power plants, as well as an Environmental Protection Agency rule that limits mercury and other hazardous emissions from coal plants.
The coal industry is also trying to delay an upcoming rule to protect streams from mountaintop removal mining, hoping to push the issue until after Obama is gone.
A spokeswoman for Bush told The Guardian, which first reported Bush’s appearance on Friday, that “it is a great opportunity to meet with stakeholders in the state. He will be talking about a variety of topics.”
The six companies that hosted the event gave nearly $6.5 million combined to Congressional candidates over the past two years, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Coal plays an outsized role in presidential campaigns, especially in the big swing state of Ohio. Both Obama and his Republican opponent in the 2012 election, Mitt Romney, went to lengths to portray themselves as friendly to coal as they wooed Ohio voters on the trail.
Bush said in a Face the Nation interview that aired Sunday that he expected to soon make a decision on running for president. He last month called the science of climate change “convoluted,” telling a New Hampshire audience that he didn’t the “science is clear what percentage is man-made and what percentage is natural.”
Among the speakers at the coal forum on Monday was Larry Sabato, who directs the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, an oft-quoted analyst of Congressional and presidential races.
“I just gave an elections update there early this morning and I left right after my session,” Sabato said in an interview. “So, no, I didn’t see Jeb Bush and I have no idea what he said.”
The invite says the conference would focuse on “challenges and opportunities facing coal and energy around the globe today.” A spokeswoman for McGlothlin said he was unavailable Monday because of the forum.