White House fights claim it opposes coal industry


WASHINGTON -- The White House is battling claims that President Barack Obama has launched a "war on coal," hoping to neutralize recent attacks from Republicans and the Romney campaign.

The White House said in a statement released this week that it wanted "to be clear" that the "administration believes that coal is and will remain an important part of our energy mix for decades to come."

The White House says it demonstrates consistent support for coal, a primary fuel for electricity generation and an economic driver in several states, by providing billions of dollars to clean-coal technology.

The statement precedes a vote in the Republican-led House on a package of bills that limit the administration's authority to regulate coal mining and coal use.

The White House threatened to veto the bill on Wednesday, although the Democrat-led Senate is unlikely to pass the legislation, meaning it will never reach the president's desk.

Republicans have for several months accused Obama of launching a "war on coal." They say rules being developed by the Environmental Protection Agency and Interior Department are forcing power companies to retire their coal-fired units and are preventing the construction of new ones.

They have accused the president of trying to stamp out the coal industry through a string of new environmental standards after Congress failed to pass new laws to address climate change.

Power plants that burn coal are a major source of carbon dioxide emissions.

The narrative has been adopted by the Romney campaign. In a new ad to be aired in coal-producing states, Romney says the U.S. should embrace its coal resources. A miner in the ad, meanwhile, says "Obama's ruining the coal industry."

The White House says Republicans are distorting the facts for political gain. Cheap natural gas, a cleaner alternative to coal, has done far more than federal rules to persuade power companies to abandon their coal units, the White House says.

Dow Jones Newswires

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