A handful of Democrats with ties to coal industry lobbyists have created a new group with the purpose of emphasizing the importance of the fuel sources among the party, which is increasingly hostile to coal power.
The CoalBlue Project launched shortly after President Barack Obama rolled out a new climate plan that observers say will devastate the coal industry.
The group says it will "advocate[e] within the Democratic Party for policies that recognize coal as an essential part of the transition to cleaner fuels, are supportive of the development and deployment of clean coal technologies, and include sustainable coal as an equal partner in the mix of future sustainable fuels."
CoalBlue members include Democratic politicians from coal-heavy states such as West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Illinois, according to a Friday report from the Huffington Post.
Some staffers for the group also have ties to lobbying firms that work on behalf of the industry.
[Secretary Stefan] Bailey was a congressional staffer for nine years, working for [Rep. Nick] Rahall [(D., W. Va.)] and former Sen. Evan Bayh (D., Ind.). He is now a director at the government relations firm Prime Policy Group, whose lobbying clients include energy companies such as Duke Energy, the largest electric utility in the U.S. Bailey said that he's working with CoalBlue as a volunteer, and that the group is not affiliated with his firm.
CoalBlue Project president Jon Wood is the former vice president of government and external affairs for Alpha Natural Resources, one of the largest coal producers in the U.S. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Wood is still a registered lobbyist for Alpha. He worked previously for the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.).
It is unclear whether the effort will be able to sway the White House, given its position that, as one White House climate adviser put it, "a war on coal is exactly what’s needed."