"I have always recognized that coal is our foundation in West Virginia. But it is not our ceiling. We need to diversify our economy in areas including oil and gas, timbering, tourism, technology and the small business sector."
Rahall also urged caution: "We don't need to rush headlong into new projects. We need to protect our environment and our people."
Top officers from several coal companies -- including Peabody Energy, Consolidation Coal, Arch Coal and Patriot Coal -- are backing Rahall. So is the United Mine Workers.
"My opponent has two coal companies on his side. They are also the coal companies responsible for most of the mining deaths in recent years."
Massey Energy and the International Coal Group are those two companies.
"I am pushing for new mine safety bills. We have worked with coal operators in efforts to improve our mine safety laws," Rahall said.
"Those who are guilty of unsafe practices know who they are. Perhaps they feel threatened by our efforts to improve mine safety legislation."
New mine safety legislation before Congress, Rahall said, will make it harder for coal companies to endlessly contest every safety violation issued by federal inspectors.
"I also favor making it a felony to fire a whistleblower from his job when he was reporting an unsafe condition," Rahall said. "Tampering with methane detectors should result in fines and prison sentences."
Rahall also said, "I single-handedly blocked efforts in Congress to abolish mountaintop removal mining. ... I have always tried to take the best interests of West Virginia to heart."
Maynard lost his bid for a second 12-year state Supreme Court term in the May 2008 Democratic primary. The loss came shortly after photographs appeared showing Maynard on vacation along the French Riviera with Don Blankenship, president of Massey Energy, which was then appealing lawsuits to the Supreme Court.
Rahall said Maynard also failed to appear at a debate sponsored by AARP and the League of Women Voters.
Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjny...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.