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GOP blames Obama's 'war on coal' for Alpha job cuts

Steve Igo • Sep 18, 2012 at 10:00 AM

WISE — Tuesday’s announcement by Alpha Natural Resources of 1,200 jobs to be cut by early next year, including 400 immediately and some of those in Virginia, resulted in an outcry from national and Virginia Republicans over what they describe as the Obama administration’s “war on coal.”

A statement issued by GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s campaign was titled “Obama’s Appalachian War on Coal” with a statement by Ryan Williams, a campaign spokesman.

“For four years, President Obama has waged a war on coal that has devastated the middle class and American workers. Today’s news that the president’s policies are killing another 1,200 jobs in states like Virginia, West Virginia and Pennsylvania is just the latest evidence President Obama hasn’t delivered for middle class families,” Williams said.

Later Tuesday, the campaign released a statement from Romney. The GOP presidential candidate said, “President Obama’s war on coal has claimed its latest victims” and claimed the administration’s economic and regulatory policies “are destroying jobs across the country and coal communities have been among the hardest hit.”

“For the sake of so many hardworking Americans and the families that depend on them, this must change,” Romney said. “I have spent my life creating jobs. Barack Obama has spent his presidency destroying them. Coal country deserves better over the next four years.”

Republican Party of Virginia Chairman Pat Mullins said, “We can’t say we weren’t warned. Candidates Obama and Biden made it plain in 2008 that they were no fans of the coal industry. Obama told us in no uncertain terms that he wanted America to move away from coal, and that his plan (was) to make coal unaffordable as a choice for utility companies. Biden said he didn’t want to see any new coal plants built in the United States.”

Mullins also slammed Democratic former Gov. Tim Kaine, now running for U.S. Senate, claiming Kaine supports the Obama administration’s regulatory policies on the coal mining industry.

Kaine’s opponent, former Gov. George Allen, issued a statement saying he knows “how much these jobs mean to families and all the hardworking people in Southwest Virginia.” Allen said the layoffs will have a ripple effect on local economies, railroad jobs, contractors and mine suppliers, and that Virginians “may have to ultimately pay higher electricity bills.”

“Unfortunately, these mine closures are only the latest examples of how Washington’s regulatory assault on coal is turning Virginia’s coalfield communities into ghost towns,” Allen said. “The political appointees of the unelected, unaccountable (Environmental Protection Agency) are effectively banning coal through excessive, overreaching regulations that are forcing coal mines to shut down.”

Two years ago, Republican Morgan Griffith stunned long-term Democratic U.S. Rep. Rick Boucher to win the 9th District congressional seat in an election where Obama administration coal policies figured large in the campaigns and outcome.

On Tuesday, Griffith said Alpha’s announcement was not unexpected given the Obama administration’s domestic coal policies.

“The announcement of layoffs in Buchanan and Wise, added to the layoffs of two weeks ago at Consol, makes this already extremely disappointing news all the more troubling,” Griffith said.

“Certainly, the coal industry, like so many other industries, experiences natural ups and downs. In today’s market, natural gas is plentiful and cheaper than coal, so in many instances it is being used as a substitute for coal. But the fact the coal industry has ups and downs isn’t news,” he said.

Instead, Griffith said the “newsworthy issue lies with the additional burdens the Obama administration is placing on folks like Alpha. As I’ve said before, President Obama, his administration, and his allies — like MoveOn.org and the Sierra Club — are all very clear about their agenda: Make using coal history.

“Take a minute to think about that. A group of government bureaucrats have decided the coal industry isn’t something that they like, so they’re going to try to force it out of business. This is appalling, and it must stop. I and others in Congress will fight them. For all the hundreds of hardworking men and women miners affected by today’s news and impacted by this agenda, please know that I stand with you. I’m proud to represent you. I’m proud to stand with coal. And I will continue to relentlessly fight against President Obama and all those who wage war on the coal industry.”

Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, whose father was a coal miner, said the news Alpha “is being forced to lay off 1,200 employees and close eight mines due to the Obama administration’s attack on coal is devastating. These hardworking Virginians are being forced out of work because of increasingly stringent EPA regulations. At the same time that President Obama has gone after the coal industry, our nation’s economy and job growth continues to lag.

“This is absolutely the wrong policy. We should be increasing America’s energy independence, garnering our natural energy resources, and encouraging private-sector job growth.”

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