Obama, Romney battle for pro-coal mantle

President Obama’s campaign hopes to flip the political script on Mitt Romney in Ohio — a coal-reliant battleground state — with an ad highlighting Romney’s 2003 claim that a Massachusetts coal-fired power plant “kills people.”

The new ad follows months of attacks by the presumptive GOP nominee, who alleges Obama administration regulations and policies are hostile to fossil fuels.

“When he ran for President, Barack Obama pledged to support clean coal and invest in new technologies,” the minute-long ad states.

Obama’s radio ad, unveiled Monday, says coal production and jobs increased in Ohio after the president took office, and touts several billion dollars in federal investments in low-emissions coal plant technology research and development.

The ad later plays a 2003 clip of Romney, as Massachusetts governor, criticizing a Salem, Massachusetts coal-fired plant at a press conference. “I will not create jobs or hold jobs that kill people. And that plant, that plant kills people,” Romney said at at the time.

“So when it comes to coal, ask yourself. Who’s been honest — and who’s playing politics?” the ad states.

Romney was criticizing the Salem Harbor Power Station's owner at the time, PG&E, for failing to meet cleanup deadlines.

His campaign hit back at Obama Monday afternoon.

“President Obama’s policies have devastated the coal industry and we are seeing the results firsthand. Just last week, the President’s burdensome regulations resulted in the loss of even more coal jobs in Ohio and have jeopardized thousands of jobs throughout the coal industry,” Romney spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg said in a statement.

“As president, Mitt Romney will promote an all-of-the-above energy policy that harnesses America’s energy resources and helps create jobs in Ohio and around the nation,” she said.

Romney and other Republicans have blasted an array of Obama administration environmental policies that affect the coal industry.

They include the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed carbon standards for new coal-fired power plants, and EPA rules finalized last year that require curbs in mercury and other air toxics from existing plants.

Ohio is a coal-producing state that also gets the lion’s share of its electricity from coal.