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Opinion

Democrat Natalie Tennant's curious coal evolution

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Barack Obama,West Virginia,EPA,Ashe Schow,Coal

Natalie Tennant, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in West Virginia, has apparently reversed course on her support for President Obama's coal policies.

Tennant campaigned with Obama in October 2008, while she was running for her current job as secretary of state of West Virginia and he was running for president. This was nine months after then-candidate Obama told the San Francisco Chronicle that his plans to introduce a cap-and-trade system in America would “bankrupt” new coal plants.

Now, that video wasn’t uncovered until two weeks after Tennant stumped for Obama (although the audio was available the entire time), so let’s give Tennant the benefit of the doubt that she didn’t know.

But there’s no evidence of Tennant condemning Obama’s statements at the time or after – or condemning cap-and-trade for that matter. A cap-and-trade bill died in the Democrat-controlled Senate in 2010.

Two years later in September 2012, as an Obama delegate at the Democratic National Convention, Tennant defended Obama's record on coal, saying that coal jobs actually increased under Obama, and didn't see his policies as “getting rid of coal.”

But this was five months after Obama's Environmental Protection Agency first proposed the carbon rules for power plants that Tennant now claims to be against. It was also at that time that Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., accused Obama's EPA of “fully engaging in a war on coal.”

Apparently still in support of Obama's coal policies, Tennant donated $605 to Obama's inauguration in January 2013.

But by August 2013, a month before she announced her Senate candidacy, Tennant began changing her tune. Tennant met with EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, but said that the major problem with the EPA's coal policies was a lack of transparency.

“What I want to see is better communication between everyone involved. Today’s meeting is a great first step toward resolving a lot of unanswered questions and a lot of mistrust,” Tennant said. “Given the lack of communication and outreach from the EPA, it is hardly surprising that people in West Virginia have assumed the worst about the EPA.”

In September 2013, Tennant announced her candidacy, and was no longer tiptoeing around Obama’s coal policies – she flat-out attacked them.

“Railing about the Obama administration’s policy on coal, as satisfying as it may be, isn’t enough,” Tennant said. “When I’m elected to the United States Senate, I will push for a new partnership between [the] coal industry and government that recognizes the contribution of coal to the world economy.”

Since she announced her candidacy, Tennant has only grown more critical of Obama's coal policies, but her past defense has haunted her campaign. While speaking with West Virginia MetroNews' Hoppy Kercheval on June 2, Tennant said Obama's policies had changed, which made her change her opinion.

“Well, you continue to see some of the policies that hurt West Virginia, i.e. today, coming out, with new restrictions and new regulations,” Tennant said. “So you see the change that has been made.”

The “change” doesn’t appear to be from Obama’s side – but from the fact that Tennant is now running for Senate in a coal-producing state.

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