4:05pm

Wed December 14, 2011
State Capitol

Beshear Avoids Coal in Inauguration Speech

In his inauguration speech, Gov. Steve Beshear spoke about education and the importance of building a generation that can lead Kentucky in the future. But it was a far cry from the pro-coal rhetoric that dominated some of his speeches earlier this year. Beshear’s avoidance of the issue didn’t surprise many observers, who know where the governor stands on coal.

“And to them I say, get off our backs!” Beshear said about the federal Environmental Protection Agency during a speech in January.

Since then, in his public appearances the governor has toned down certain issues that could divide his Democratic base. During his speech at Fancy Farm, Beshear spoke only about supporting the troops, to the disappointment of those who expected attacks on his opponents.

Beshear’s omission of coal and energy from his inaugural address didn’t come as a surprise to attorney and political commentator John David Dyche. He says an inaugural address should be thematic rather than specific, and that’s what Beshear’s speech did.

“That theme of a better prepared workforce and an emphasis on education from early childhood through post-graduate was what he wanted to emphasize, so I really don’t want to attach any significance to his not mentioning coal,” he said.

Neither does environmental attorney Tom FitzGerald, who says Beshear’s actions speak louder than his words.

“He has made it abundantly clear in terms of where the budget axe has fallen and in terms of the litigation he’s been involved in and in terms of his public posturing in front of the legislature that environmental protection is not going to be part of his legacy,” FitzGerald said.

Both FitzGerald and Dyche say Beshear has made his support of the coal industry clear. The time for specific policy proposals will be in the State of the Commonwealth address before the General Assembly in January.