Ted Strickland lauded his recent endorsement from the League of Conservation Voters Action Fund, the political committee of a green energy group that lobbies against coal-fired power plants.
Strickland, a former governor of Ohio and now Democratic candidate for Senate, said he was "honored" by the endorsement from the anti-coal group, despite the fact that the coal industry employs thousands of Ohioans. Strickland has already come under fire for his previous leadership position at a progressive think tank that pushes an anti-coal agenda.
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The League of Conservation Voters Action Fund called Strickland an "environmental champion" in a press release circulated Thursday, citing his decision to support and eventually sign an energy bill into law as governor that set the goal of having 25 percent of Ohio’s energy generated from advanced energy sources by the year 2025, half of it from renewable energy sources. The group also praised Strickland’s votes against oil and gas drilling in Congress.
"I am honored to have earned the endorsement of the League of Conservation Voters Action Fund. As governor, I was proud to bring one of the most ambitious renewable and advanced energy standards in the nation to Ohio," Strickland said in a statement. "The clean energy industry presents a tremendous source of opportunity for Ohio."
The endorsement could pose a problem for Strickland among the state’s coal-country voters, as the League of Conservation Voters has lobbied against coal power plants and shale fracking, two sources of jobs and affordable energy in the state. The group laid out its goal of keeping "dirty fuels" like coal in the ground in its 2016 plan of action.
"Building on our success stopping the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, we will work with our allies to promote policies that keep dirty fuels in the ground and prevent new extraction of fossil fuels on public lands," the plan said. "This will include seeking to limit offshore drilling, reform coal leasing, and push for permanent protections for the Artic and Atlantic Oceans."
The group has partnered with the Ohio Environmental Council Action Fund, a new nonprofit "social welfare" organization headed by an ex-Strickland staffer, to advocate against coal power plants and push a green energy agenda.
The coal industry in Ohio directly employs an estimated 3,000 people and supports 33,000 jobs, according to data from the the Ohio Coal Association. Strickland’s success in his bid for Senate will, in part, depend on his ability to win over these voters.
This is not the first time Strickland has been associated with organizations that oppose coal. After leaving the office of governor, Strickland became the head of the advocacy arm of the Center for American Progress, a Washington, D.C., think tank that advocates for progressive environmental policies. While there, Strickland worked alongside one of the architects of President Obama’s climate change agenda, former EPA administrator Carol Browner.
Earlier this month, Strickland came under scrutiny for his support of Hillary Clinton after she pledged to put coal miners and coal companies "out of business" as president during a Democratic town hall in Columbus, Ohio. While Strickland told the Free Beacon that Clinton’s comments were "unartful," he defended her message that coal jobs are dwindling.
"The League of Conservation Voters’ endorsement proves once again that Ted Strickland is being warmly embraced by the environmental left," Christian Palich, president of the Ohio Coal Association, said in a statement. "Ohio coal families want to move away from the failed anti-coal energy policies of Barack Obama, not send someone to the Senate who will continue to destroy their jobs."
Strickland faces incumbent Sen. Rob Portman (R) in the November general election.
"Under Former Governor Ted Strickland’s watch, Ohio lost more than 350,000 jobs and ranked 48th in job creation. He has the worst record of any Senate candidate in the country, and this endorsement is just another example of a liberal outside special interest group coming in to rescue his struggling campaign," Portman campaign spokesperson Michawn Rich said in a statement.
Portman has worked to protect the coal industry, voting to overturn President Obama’s regulation on coal-fired power plants last year. Twenty-nine states, including Ohio, have sued Obama over the rule limiting emissions from coal-fired plants.