Attorney General and Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli promised Thursday that battling President Obama over environmental policies would be a cornerstone of his energy agenda.
Speaking at a power line manufacturer in the Virginia-Tennessee border town of Bristol, Cuccinelli ripped into Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency for approving new regulations and taxes that he said are burdensome to businesses.
"Protect the environment, we always want to do that and keep that in mind, but it's always about a balance" with job creation, Cuccinelli said.
The Republican nominee also doubled down on promises to boost the state's shrinking coal industry, calling it "essential." He criticized his opponent, Democrat Terry McAuliffe, as an adversary to coal, which remains a critical piece of the economy in southwest Virginia.
"My opponent said he never wanted to see another coal plant built in Virginia," Cuccinelli said. "I don't know how you say something like that in Virginia. We can build new plants that are safer, cleaner and more efficient."
McAuliffe made the comment during a 2009 Democratic primary debate when he last ran for governor. More recently, McAuliffe also visited Bristol and called coal a "vital industry" that he would make sure "continue[s] to grow."
Cuccinelli's announcement reopened the attorney general to criticism from environmental groups that he used his office to wage political battles against proponents of climate change. Cuccinelli, a global warming skeptic, lost a high-profile court battle after he launched an investigation into a University of Virginia professor's climate research. He also challenged the EPA over tougher fuel efficiency standards for cars and won a court battle against the agency over stormwater regulation in Fairfax County.
"Ken Cuccinelli's extreme record on energy and science has hurt Virginia," said McAuliffe spokesman Josh Schwerin. "When he didn't like the conclusions of a scientist's research, he abused his office to launch a witch hunt against U.Va. that cost $600,000 and embarrassed Virginia. After his tax plan was laughed off stage as an idea that would cause a budget crisis, Cuccinelli is trying to shift gears to another issue where his plan is light on specifics but his record is heavy on ideology."
Cuccinelli's agenda echoed many of the principles that Gov. Bob McDonnell has emphasized during his time in office, including fewer regulations and an all-of-the-above energy portfolio that would include drilling off Virginia's shores. But he also came out hard against subsidies and tax credits for green energy projects that the Obama administration has emphasized.
"We'll do that in order to harness private-sector innovation instead of letting government pick winners and losers," Cuccinelli said.