GOP’s new ‘war on coal’ ad targets McAuliffe in Virginia governor’s race

Ken Cuccinelli II’s campaign for Virginia governor aired a new “War on Coal” ad Thursday claiming that Terry McAuliffe and his fellow Democrats are hostile to an industry that generates electricity and jobs for thousands of people in the commonwealth.

“It’s often called his war on coal,” the ad says, showing a picture of President Obama. “But it’s more than that. It’s a war on the working poor. … Now, Terry McAuliffe wants to lead the attack.”

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But McAuliffe’s campaign has said he is concerned about any regulations that would drive up energy costs or cost Virginians their jobs.

“While we’re waiting on actual regulations to be proposed, Terry believes any new regulations should balance the need to encourage clean energy with the fact that coal is, and will continue to be, a large portion of Virginia’s energy mix,” McAuliffe spokesman Josh Schwerin said in an e-mail about the proposed rules.

Cuccinelli, who is Virginia’s attorney general, and McAuliffe, a former Democratic national chairman and businessman from McLean, have battled over energy policy in a race notable for its nastiness. Polls show McAuliffe has an edge.

The ad follows news that the Environmental Protection Agency’s is drafting new rules limiting greenhouse gases that would require any new coal-fired plant to have expensive carbon-reduction equipment. Industry officials say the measures would effectively prohibit the construction of any new coal-fired plants. The EPA rules are due Sept. 20.

Republicans have suggested that McAuliffe would fall in step with Obama and environmentalist groups on energy policy. They also accuse him of flip-flopping to win votes.

“We have got to move past coal. As governor, I never want another coal plant built,” the ad quotes McAuliffe as saying during a debate in the 2009 Democratic primary. At the time, McAuliffe also noted that coal generated nearly 50 percent of the nation’s energy and that the country would need time to wean itself from coal. This year, he was quoted by a newspaper in Southwest as saying he wanted to help coal grow.

Democrats have hammered at Cuccinelli, meanwhile, for his skepticism about global warming and his campaign’s financial ties to the fossil fuel industry. They have also highlighted his unsuccessful bid to compel the University of Virginia to release documents from a climate researcher to see whether he had skewed data on global warming to obtain grants. And they have accused him of siding with energy companies in a complex legal dispute over natural gas royalties in Southwest Virginia.

Brian Coy, a spokesman for the Democratic Party of Virginia, said the GOP’s ad is a bid “to distract from the help his office gave to the out-of-state gas companies seeking to deny those royalties.”

Here’s the ad.

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