"Unfortunately, the Manchin administration has taken the position that the governor wants to see a balance between coal and the environment," Hechler said. "But ... when push comes to shove, coal always wins and the environment always loses."
He also criticized the Manchin administration's handling of the federal historic designation process for the site of the Battle of Blair Mountain -- the largest armed confrontation in American labor history -- calling the state's treatment of the matter "real double talk."
"Here's a man who wants to succeed Sen. Byrd," Hechler said of the governor. "I know many things about Sen. Byrd, the most important of which is, he always said what he meant and meant what he said. There was no double talk coming out of Sen. Byrd's mouth."
Also, Hechler said Manchin has failed to address the environmental impact of Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling in West Virginia.
In a statement, Manchin said Hechler recently informed him of the decision to endorse Johnson.
"When it comes to our coal mining families, coal mining jobs and the energy that this country depends on, I won't budge an inch so I understand Mr. Hechler not supporting me," Manchin said, adding that he would not stop fighting "for West Virginia coal ... until common sense prevails."
Raese campaign manager Jim Dornan said Johnson could possibly take votes away from Manchin in the general election because many Hechler supporters are so passionate about mountaintop removal.
"The folks that were voting for Ken and would vote for Jesse were never going to for us, and we understand that," Dornan said.
Reach Alison Knezevich at alis...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1240.