CHARLESTON – Several state leaders are taking issue with Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s comments that she would “put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.”
Clinton’s comment came Sunday during a town hall meeting in Columbus, Ohio.
"For the past eight years, the Obama administration has done everything possible to put our coal miners out of work and destroy the nation’s coal industry," said Bill Raney, president of the West Virginia Coal Association. "Now, Hillary Clinton has promised the same thing!
"Why on earth would any candidate or public official, much less one running for president, promise to put hard-working West Virginians out of work? We have some of the best quality coal here in West Virginia, and the best coal miners in the world, who want a job and not a handout from the federal government!
Raney said Clinton's comments are telling.
"Clinton’s comments show that she and, apparently, the current national Democratic Party are completely out of touch with the needs and the desires of West Virginians who want to work. We here at the West Virginia Coal Association thoroughly condemn these comments and others like them as we condemn the policies of the Obama administration. Like I said, West Virginians want jobs not handouts.”
The leader of the state Republican Party echoed those sentiments.
“The face at the top of the ticket has changed, but the goal of Democrats is the same,” said West Virginia Republican Party Chairman Conrad Lucas. “To flat-out end our coal industry and put a stop to new energy drilling as well. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama carry the same flag into war against our state, our jobs, our way of life and our prosperity.
“This is the fault as well of every Democrat here who has endorsed an Obama or Clinton, starting with liberal Joe Manchin and going all the way down to your local officials who couldn't say no to their D.C. plan to destroy our economy.”
State Senate President and Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Cole also was critical of Clinton's comment.
“West Virginia is the only state where a majority of adults don’t have a job," he said. "Our state budget is facing a $400 million structural deficit due in large part to the War on Coal. Now, Hillary Clinton wants to double down on President Obama’s policies that seek to hurt our struggling economy and layoff even more miners.
“I call on all West Virginians to join my campaign in sending Hillary Clinton and her liberal Washington bureaucrats a message loud and clear that her agenda is not only wrong for our state, it will destroy our ability to compete in the future.”
Cole's gubernatorial campaign also launched an online petition to fight what he calls Clinton’s anti-West Virginia agenda. The campaign calls on all three Democratic gubernatorial candidates to repudiate Clinton’s statements and join together in an effort to halt her anti-coal agenda.
"All four of the remaining Republican candidates for President have spoken out in support of our state’s coal industry," Cole said. "The choice this November could not be more clear on which party is standing up for West Virginia."
Rep. Alex Mooney, a Republican, said Clinton's comments were a "direct attack on West Virginia."
"She made it clear that she wants to continue President Obama’s War on Coal which has destroyed rural communities across our state," Mooney said. "West Virginian’s need a president and a Congress that will fight for our coal miners and promote an all-the-above energy policy that utilizes our country’s natural resources, including coal.
"Her statements last night underscore the importance of this Presidential election for not only our state, but also for our country.”
Rep. David McKinley, also a Republican, said the comment echoed that.
“If you want to continue the same anti-coal policies we’ve seen over the last eight years, it’s clear Hillary Clinton should be your choice," he said. "She has been saying this for months, but this latest statement is just the clearest indication she finish the job that President Obama started, destroying jobs and entire communities in the process.
"Elections have consequences. For anyone who cares about the future of coal, this statement should be a rallying call.”
Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, a Republican, called Clinton’s comments more of the same.
"The last thing our state needs is yet another attack against coal miners and their families,” he said. “The people of West Virginia are hurting and cannot afford more of the failed and illegal regulations that President Obama has foisted upon our state.
“Democrats, Independents and Republicans should all come together to oppose Hillary Clinton's candidacy and those who are supporting her. Miners aren't looking for a handout – they just want to keep their good paying jobs."
U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, a Republican, tweeted a response to the comments on her campaign account, saying Clinton " clearly stated her intention to bankrupt coal."
"Ouch," she tweeted. "WV's coal miners have powered America for generations. Our families and communities cannot afford fewer jobs and higher energy prices.
"I will continue to lead the fight against EPA regulations that have been devastating to WV."
Lucas, the state GOP chairman, said this year’s election is “a fight for the soul of our nation and survival of this state.”
“America can't lead without inexpensive, domestic energy,” he said. “Hillary Clinton, Obama, Joe Manchin and their team stand together against our jobs and pocketbooks. It is finally time to sweep every Democrat from office who has given these liberals aid and comfort to harm West Virginia."
During the town hall meeting, Clinton was endorsing policies similar to those of Obama. Since he took office, it is estimated about 125,000 coal jobs have been cut, costing the industry more than $650 billion. Under Obama, the Environmental Protection Agency has moved forward on its Clean Power Plan that will require states to reduce their coal consumption in favor of natural gas, renewables, and energy efficiency.
Just before her coal comment Sunday, Clinton promised to invest in the clean energy economy in those places, and immediately followed it with a promise to "make it clear that we don't want to forget those people.”
In her policy papers, however, Clinton pledged a $30 billion plan to transition the industry to clean energy jobs rather than just putting them out of business.
Her campaign website says Clinton would “revitalize coal communities” to ensure that “coal miners, power plant operators, transportation workers, and their families get the respect they deserve and the benefits they have earned.” She also says she would make “coal communities an engine of US economic growth in the 21st century.”