Salena Zito

Yankovich refuses to criticize Obama but suggests driving to one of those electricity-generating windmills in Somerset County to see how many cars are in its parking lot. “None. None,” he replies. “But drive over to Homer City in Indiana County, and you will see 200 to 300 at any time of the day.”

The coal-fired Homer City power plant is pretty imposing, home to the second-tallest smokestack in the country. It is in the midst of proposing a $725 million pollution-abatement project, to avoid being one of more than 100 coal-fired plants that power generators recently decided to shut down – including six in Pennsylvania – ahead of new federal clean-air rules that take effect in 2015.

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., says we need to find a balance of wind, sun and clean coal.

“It’s not just jobs, it is costs, too,” he said, referring to monthly electric bills. “That last thing we need in this slow-moving economy is rising energy bills, not just at the pump but in the home as well.”

Rooney said Obama needs to address coal and the balance he will strike between environmental protection and rising energy costs: “It is an issue that will define his re-election fight here in Pennsylvania as well as Ohio.”

Last Saturday, Vice President Joe Biden appeared in Pittsburgh’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade, watched by nearly 300,000 people. The Scranton native shook hands, held babies -- and sometimes was booed.

Given Western Pennsylvania’s coal-rich history, some parade-goers likely remembered his declaration of support for clean coal in China but not in the United States.

“No coal plants here in America,” he said in Eastern Ohio in 2008. “Build them, if they’re going to build them, over there. Make them clean.”

Maybe some of the 500 people who attended a meeting last week, about keeping the Homer City plant operating, also attended Pittsburgh’s parade.

Salena Zito

Salena Zito is a political analyst, reporter and columnist.