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Fed coal policies add heat to Virginia’s race for governor

September 20th, 2013 9:55 pm by Stephen Igo

Fed coal policies add heat to Virginia’s race for governor

WISE — New limits on carbon emissions unveiled Friday by the Obama administration adds more fuel to the political flames being fanned by both sides in this year’s gubernatorial contest in Virginia.

The limits proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency pretty much guarantee no more coal-fired power plants will be built in the country, delivering a blow to a coal industry that has already seen its domestic market share shrink in recent years as a result of a vigorous challenge from natural gas as well as some previous Obama administration fiats.

The coal issue is particularly keen in this year’s gubernatorial race in Virginia pitting Republican state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli against Democrat Terry McAuliffe.

As attorney general, Cuccinelli has gone to the mat to fight prior Obama administration moves to curtail the use of coal, while McAuliffe has engaged in a touchy reversal of his previous stands on coal-fired power plants as well as offshore drilling during his first attempt for governor four years ago.

In 2009, McAuliffe said if he was elected governor, he would make sure not another coal-fired power plant would be built in Virginia. At the time, Virginia Dominion Power was about one year along into building its new coal-fired plant, that also can burn biofuels, in Wise County. The $2 billion, 585-megawatt power station began producing electricity last year and directly supports at least 300 coal mining jobs in Southwest Virginia, not to mention millions of dollars annually into local tax coffers.

McAuliffe’s 2013 campaign for governor now portrays the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee as a friend of coal, even as the campaign receives major funding from nationally known environmentalist sources opposed to its mining and use, something Cuccinelli and the state’s GOP are happy to point out.

On Friday Cuccinelli unleashed a broadside at both the Obama administration and his Democratic opponent. Cuccinelli said the Obama administration’s carbon emissions standards “will impact much more than energy policy” but also families struggling to make it in an already sluggish economy.

Read more of this story in Saturday's print edition of the Times-News, or the expanded electronic edition

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