"It's not hard to imagine that she could have been nominated to be EPA administrator by Mitt Romney if he had won the 2012 presidential election," Manchin said.
Still, Manchin said McCarthy's qualifications and bipartisanship weren't enough to win his vote.
"My vote against her goes much deeper than her nomination, her views on energy and the environment or even her job performance the last four years as head of air policy at the EPA," Manchin said. "No, my vote is against Gina McCarthy is really a vote against the administration's lack of any serious attempt to develop an energy strategy for America's future."
Manchin continued, "the president often speaks about an 'all-of-the above' energy policy. But his new global climate proposal amounts to a true declaration of war on one of the above - coal.
"In fact, the president plans to use the EPA to regulate the coal industry out of existence," Manchin said.
While McCarthy's nomination was opposed by Republican leaders and backed by Democrats and environmental organizations, even some within the coal industry offered supportive comments about working with her on EPA air pollution rules.
"Did she do all of the things we thought would be best? No, but we do see that she's trying to do things that would achieve regulatory balance," John McManus, vice president of environmental services for American Electric Power, told the National Journal.
And in a statement Thursday afternoon, the National Mining Association said it "stands ready to work with Gina McCarthy ... toward thoughtful, constructive policies that assure American's mining industry continues to provide the energy, metals and minerals all Americans depend on for economic security and quality of life."
West Virginia political leaders have generally opposed Obama administration efforts to reduce the impacts of mountaintop removal mining, cut air pollution emissions from coal-fired power plants and require better management of toxic coal-ash from those plants.
And while industry backers blame an Obama "war on coal" for a decline in Appalachian coal employment, most experts agree the industry's troubles are also caused by a combination of factors including cheap natural gas, competition from other coal basins, and the mining out of Appalachia's best coal reserves.
The state's political leaders harshly criticized Obama's June order that EPA finalize greenhouse gas limits for new power plants by September 2013 and existing facilities by June 2015, but state officials offer few -- if any -- details of their own proposals for how West Virginia could start to help slow global warming.
When Obama's climate plan was announced, AEP officials said it appeared to take "a balanced approach" and that utilities can achieve "meaningful reductions and minimize economic pain" if EPA gives them "maximum flexibility within the confines of the Clean Air Act."
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.