DENVER — A video from a Colorado coal town brought the Mitt Romney campaign to the community Tuesday, where he touted his pro-development energy strategy and blasted President Obama for tying the hands of the energy sector.
“He’s gone after energy,” Mr. Romney said to a throng of supporters in tiny Craig, Colo. “He says he’s for all of the above, and yet he’s made it harder to get coal out of the ground, harder to get natural gas out of the ground, harder to get oil out of the ground.”
When the president says “all of the above,” it means “he’s for all sources of energy that come from above the ground, not for things that come below the ground,” Mr. Romney said. “I want energy above and below the ground — coal, gas, oil, nuclear, as well as renewables.”
The town of Craig, population 9,500, is hardly a regular stop on the campaign trail. Located in remote northwestern Colorado, the community had never before been visited by a presidential candidate during a campaign.
The Romney campaign decided to put Craig on its schedule after a local couple, Frank and Kerrie Moe, sent the candidate a video made by the pro-coal group Energy for America called, “The Perfect Storm Over Craig, Colorado,” detailing the community’s concerns over state and federal regulation of the coal industry.
At the rally, the Moes, who were featured in the video, introduced Mr. Romney to the crowd at Alice Pleasant Park.
“When Kerri and I cried out for help and relief from Obama’s over-regulation of the energy industry and failed economic policies that are hurting our community, Mitt Romney is the one who answered the call,” said Mr. Moe.
The exact state of the town’s economic woes touched off a media kerfluffle after Mr. Romney’s speech. Craig Mayor Terry Carwile told reporters that there had been no recent layoffs and that some local mines were advertising for more employees.
Mr. Carwile told the Denver Post, “I think the inverse is true — that people have gone to work,” and told the New York Times that “[T]he policies of the federal government really aren’t that impactful to us so far.”
ProgressNow Colorado responded with a press release saying that Mr. Romney “is making a fool of himself every time he visits Colorado.”
“Once again, he’s using our state as a backdrop for his deceptive attacks, even attacking thousands of workers and billions invested in some of Colorado’s most important industries,” said ProgressNow Colorado President Alan Franklin. “It’s appalling, and the people of Colorado won’t forget it in November.”
After several years of recession, Craig’s economy bounced back earlier this year, but “that is not to say that people aren’t concerned about some of these future regulations,” Mr. Carwile told The Washington Times.
“The industry here is rightfully concerned with things that emanate from Washington, D.C., that could affect them,” said Mr. Carwile, whose office is nonpartisan.
High on the list are proposed Environmental Protection Agency greenhouse-gas restrictions that would impose strict emissions limits on newly built coal-powered plants, and the federal roadless rule, which would bar development on 58.5 million acres of public lands.
Earlier this month, the Colorado Mining Association filed a challenge to the roadless rule with the Supreme Court, arguing that the restrictions created de facto wilderness areas, which only Congress can designate.
“Coal mining provides stability and security to local communities, no question about it,” said Colorado Mining Association President Stuart Sanderson. “But the industry is threatened by regulations that discourage and threaten coal use.”
Despite a recent uptick in coal production in Colorado, the long-term trend is one of decline, with production falling from almost 40 million tons in 2004 to 25 million tons in 2010, said Mr. Sanderson.
The Obama campaign has called for an “all of the above” approach to energy that includes ‘clean coal,’ but industry officials are irked that the president failed to mention coal in his State of the Union address.
Unemployment in Moffat County, which includes Craig, was 8.3 percent in April, slightly higher than the state average of 7.8 percent.
c This story based in part on wire service reports.