‘War on coal’ rhetoric not enough to propel Republican Senate candidates to victory

Michael Bastasch Energy Editor
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Voters in coal producing swing states of Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Virginia elected Democrats to the Senate, despite their Republican challengers trying to tie them to the Obama administration’s alleged “war on coal.”

In Pennsylvania, Democratic Sen.Bob Casey handily defeated Republican Tom Smith, even after being attacked by Smith for supporting President Obama’s “war on coal” and

“The President’s EPA has clearly declared a war on coal – an industry crucial to our economy and Sen. Casey has done nothing to support the energy industry and the Pennsylvania jobs it creates,” Smith said in a statement.

Pennsylvania ranks fourth in coal production, mining 68 million tons last year and creating 49,100 direct and indirect jobs, according to the Pennsylvania Coal Alliance.

“As the owner of several coal-mining companies, I was on the receiving end of the President’s and Bob Casey’s costly, job-killing regulations,” said Smith,

However, Casey fired back during the campaign, trying to qualify his past support for environmental regulations, like the costly EPA Utility MACT.

“Pennsylvanians know better than most the importance of balancing the economic benefits of coal with the safety of our communities, Casey said in a statement after voting against a resolution to stop the Utility MACT. “I voted against this resolution after talking to my constituents and after careful consideration in the best interest of the Commonwealth.”

In Ohio, Democrat Sen. Sherrod Brown defeated Republican challenger Josh Mandel despite having been heavily attacked for supporting the “war on coal.”

During the campaign, Mandel used the EPA’s war on coal as a rallying call in his campaign, tying Brown to the Obama administration’s anti-coal policies

“Obama is the general in the war on coal and Sherrod Brown is his lieutenant,” Mandel said.

Mandel previously issued a press release criticizing Brown for voting 22 times on measures that would hurt Ohio coal.

Ohio ranks seventh in the nation in terms of coal reserves with 23.7 billion short tons, according to the Ohio Coal Association.

“Coal is a blessing,” Josh Mandel, Republican Senate challenger to Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown, told a crowd in eastern Ohio. “There are some who are trying to convince the country that coal is a liability… It’s not a Democratic or Republican issue. It’s an economic issue.”

However, Brown defended his record on coal to the Associated Press, rejecting Mandel’s accusations.

“My record on energy is broad,” Brown said. “I think as the president said, ‘You look everywhere.’ You start by taking away the tax breaks for the oil industry. You hear these Republicans say the president is picking winners and losers on energy and they insist on subsidizing oil, and there’s no rhyme or reason to subsidize oil.”

“You can have very safe miners, but if they can’t mine coal, maybe they’re going to be selling canaries because they’re not going to be mining coal,” said Mike Carey, chairman of the Ohio Coal Association.

In Virginia, Democratic Senate candidate Tim Kaine defeated Republican opponent George Allen.

Allen’s campaign made a concerted effort to tie Kaine to the Obama administration’s alleged “war on coal” and show his support for excessive environmental regulations.

“Tim Kaine has stood by President Obama and radical environmentalists as they advance regulations to shut down coal-fired plants and then he has the audacity to tell Southwest Virginians ‘don’t try to weaken’ regulations that are destroying their livelihoods,” said Emily Davis, spokeswoman for George Allen for U.S. Senate in a release.

Virginia produced 22.3 million short tons of coal in 2010 and employed 24,100 people, according to the National Mining Association.

“Southwest Virginians know that George Allen has always been a true friend of coal who knows that his job is to fight for their jobs,” Davis continued.

In October, Allen’s campaign released two campaign ads that accused Kaine of waging a “war on coal” running both ads in coal-heavy southwest Virginia, according to CBS News.

Tim Kaine attempted to paint himself as a friend of coal, touting his support for coal miners unions in an ad against George Allen and sing his record as governor to show his support for coal power.

“As Governor, I promoted next-generation cleaner coal technology during the permitting of a state-of-the-art coal-fired plant in Wise County,” Kaine says on his website.

“Both Tim and I have had the highest honor anybody can be accorded, to serve as governor,” Allen said, conceding the race. “I also had the opportunity to serve in the U.S. Senate. Now, Tim Kaine with have the opportunity to serve in the United States Senate. I’ve called him.”

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