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In decline, coal in crosshairs in Va. gov's race

Saturday - 10/5/2013, 1:35pm  ET

Associated Press

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -- Coal has emerged as a defining issue in the race for governor in Virginia.

This week, the stark divide between Republican Ken Cuccinelli and Democratic rival Terry McAuliffe grew wider with the release of new proposed federal pollution limits on coal-fired power plants.

The political debate centers on potential job losses that southwest Virginia's coal industry would sustain under the guidelines.

But in Virginia, mining and miners have been shed at a steady pace over the last two decades, primarily for geological rather than political reasons. Those declines began well ahead of this pitched race for governor.

A number of factors have contributed to the decline, but the industry and analysts say the primary reason is fewer accessible coal reserves to mine in Virginia.

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