Manchin insisted he would fight for coal, no matter what.
"The government should be your partner. It shouldn't be your adversary," he said on the debate stage at Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, W.Va. "It should be your ally and that's what we don't have in Washington and that's what I've been working for. And I'll work with whoever the president. I worked when President Bush was there. I worked with President Obama. I will work with the next president."
West Virginia voters are expected to give Manchin a full six-year term in November. Obama lost the state in 2008 by 13 percentage points and in this year's Democratic primary in May, a convicted felon in Texas got 40 percent of the vote to the president's 60 percent, a fresh reminder of Obama's unpopularity in the state. Romney is expected to handily win West Virginia's five electoral votes next month.
In Ohio, coal is responsible for some 3,000 underground and generates more than 87 percent of the state's electricity. Ohio is seventh in the nation in coal reserves with 23.7 billion short tons and Belmont County is the leading coal producer in the state, churning out 760 million tons since 1816, according to the Ohio Coal Association.
Power plants that burn coal produce more than 90 times as much sulfur dioxide, five times as much nitrogen oxide and twice as much carbon dioxide as those that run on natural gas, according to the Government Accountability Office, the regulatory arm of Congress. Sulfur dioxide causes acid rain; nitrogen oxides cause smog; and carbon dioxide is a so-called greenhouse gas that traps heat in the atmosphere.
The EPA tightened limits on power-plant emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide, and placed new limits on mercury, a poison found in coal. That step will force some of the dirtiest and oldest coal plants to close.