Ol' Ol' King Coal enters the Gubernatorial race

By Ken Midkiff

COLUMBIA, Mo 2/12/16 (Op Ed) -- My column today takes its title from a Kansas City Star headline referring to Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, who famously switched from being a Republican to a Democrat.    

Though Koster stated his philosophies were more aligned with the Democratic party, his switch was politically motivated, the Star surmised.   His electability for the Office of Attorney General increased as a Democrat -- simple as that

Koster's latest move involves higher political ambitions.  He has thrown his hat into the Missouri Governor's ring, facing no declared opponents for the Democratic primary, but at least four opponents on the GOP ticket:  businessman John Brunner;  Navy Seal Eric Greitens; Catherine Hanaway, former Speaker of the Missouri House of Representatives; and Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder

Four GOP opponents, including a wealthy businessman and two old hands at the campaign game, suggest Koster needs to raise a lot of money to win.  To raise it, he will have to appeal to Missouri's wealthiest citizens -- and corporations.   Three of the wealthiest are Arch Coal, Peabody Coal, and Ameren -- the Coal Kings, if you will.   Arch and Peabody have coal mines across the globe, while Ameren Missouri owns and operates several coal-fired power plants in this state.  

What better way to cozy up to the Coal Kings than to join 24 other Attorneys General as plaintiffs in a lawsuit blocking the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from enforcing a regulation that requires states to submit a "clean energy" plan.   Coal ain't exactly clean, so any clean energy plan Missouri might file could force Ameren, Arch, and Peabody to change their business practices and reduce carbon dioxide emissions.  

Better for them, then, to squelch such a plan. 

You may be wondering if Mr. Koster is merely stepping in to deflect onerous government regulations.   But the EPA's clean energy plan doesn't seem onerous at all.   It seeks to increase the following:  efficiency of coal-fired power plants (as opposed to shuttering them); reliance on natural gas; and use of low or zero-carbon energy generation like wind and solar power.

Koster says Missouri's coal-fired power plants are retooling to comply with the EPA's clean power plan anyway, so why bother making compliance official?    But if compliance is no big deal, with the state already on board, why join the lawsuit?   Though his campaign would likely deny it, the thought of big donations from the Coal Kings seems a logical motivation.  

When it comes to politics, “Follow the money”, a sage urged a long time ago.

The Democratic Party, meanwhile, has taken a stand championing action to reduce greenhouse gases and turn back climate change.   So you'll understand my consternation when the only Democratic gubernatorial candidate in our state, Chris Koster, chooses the promise of corporate financial largesse over Planet Earth; over his *adopted* party's convictions; and despite a growing body of scientific evidence supporting climate change.   


While 97% of climatologists worldwide have concluded climate change is indeed occurring -- and carbon dioxide from human activities, such as burning coal – is responsible, with his decision to block the EPA, Mr. Koster is siding with the discredited three percenters.   Roughly three percent of climatology scientists argue against climate change, many of them in the employ of fossil fuel industry giants like Arch, Peabody, and Ameren. 

Three percent of climatologists supporting three Coal Kings among the wealthiest one percent of corporations in the world.    With numbers like those, Mr. Koster will need all the money he can raise to get a majority of the Missouri vote. 

In response to the AG's litigation, the US Supreme Court this week "stayed" the Clean Power Plan, which will delay its implementation until legal challenges are settled.