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Ad War In Senate Race Heats Up Over Coal

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Maybe it's no surprise that Tom Smith, a man who made millions in the coal business, feels strongly about the future of this industry.

"This war on coal -- it's huge," the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate told KDKA political editor Jon Delano.

A war on coal?

In campaign ads, Smith accuses President Barack Obama and Sen. Bob Casey of waging war on the coal industry.

Smith's campaign ad: "Sen. Bob Casey supported these regulations, going right along with Obama's war on coal that cost us jobs."

Casey did vote against a bill to block EPA regulation of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases and has supported a carbon tax.

"What is Sen. Bob Casey's plan on growing the economy?" Smith asked. "Is it throwing more regulations on energy like coal?"

Casey says there's a balance, saying he's opposed EPA rules that hurt coal jobs.

But he makes no apology for votes, he says, to protect the public from mercury brain poisoning and health risks by the coal industry.

"Getting that balance right is not only right, but I think it's achievable," said Casey.

For his part, Casey accuses Smith - who operated 52 surface and seven underground mines - of endangering his workers.

Casey campaign ad: "He's made a fortune running unsafe coal mines, 500 accidents and injuries, 2,000 violations, fire hazards, faulty equipment."

The Mine Safety & Health Administration has cited Smith's coal operations for these mine safety violations, but Smith calls Casey's ad a kitchen-sink attack.

As with most campaign ads, there's usually a healthy mix of truth and exaggeration.

The government never cited Smith's mines for a pattern of S&S -- or serious and substantial -- violations, although his mines scored worse than average for time lost because of injuries.

For his part, Casey has voted against coal industry positions on taxes and the environment, which owners like Smith say cost jobs. But Casey has been endorsed by the United Mine Workers union that represents coal miners who would be the first to lose jobs.

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