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2nd presidential debate hits on energy independence, coal and steel struggles

The twomajor party presidential candidates concluded a contentious second debate Oct. 9with a discussion of domestic energy policy, with Republican nominee Donald Trumparguing the U.S. energy industry is "under siege" and Democrat nomineeHillary Clinton emphasizing the need for the country to remain energy independent.

The candidates'comments came in response to the second-to-last question of the town hall styledebate, which was initially driven by tense exchanges between Trump and Clintonover recent campaign trail controversies and foreign policy.

Askedhow he intends to meet the nation's energy needs while remaining environmentallyconscious and protecting fossil energy jobs, Trump pointed the finger at the currentadministration, including the U.S. EPA, for being too restrictive.

"Energyis under siege by the Obama administration; under absolute siege," Trump said."The EPA is killing these energy companies. And foreign countries are now comingin and buying so many of our different plants."

Citingjob losses and economic decline in coal producing states like West Virginia, Pennsylvaniaand Ohio, Trump called for the support of "clean coal" to extend the lifeof the nation's coal industry, which has faced significant regulatory and marketchallenges in recent years.

"Coalwill last for a thousand years in this country," he added, telling the audiencethat his energy policies would "bring back" energy companies, allowingthe country to pay down its debt.

Trumpalso pointed to the struggling domestic steel industry, saying he would take actionto protect it from international competition. "You take a look at what's happeningwith steel, the cost of steel, and China dumping vast amounts of steel all overthe United States, which essentially is killing our steel workers and our steelcompanies."

Clintonseized on this comment, echoing a recent Newsweek reportthat claimed Trump's construction business has purchased Chinese steel over U.S.-producedproducts.

"Well,that was very interesting," Clinton said. "First of all, China is illegallydumping steel into the United States and Donald Trump is buying it to build hisbuildings, putting steel workers and American steel plants out of business. That'ssomething that I fought against as a senator and is something that I'd use a tradeprosecutor for to make sure we don't get taken advantage by China on that or anythingelse."

On thetopic of coal, Clinton allowed that domestic producers are struggling, but citedbroader, global market trends for the downturn rather than the impact of Obama administrationenvironmental regulations. The Democratic candidate said the best approach to thechallenges facing coal producing parts of the country would include a $30 billiondevelopment plan aimed at training and economic diversification rather than sustainingcoal use.

Clintonproposed the package earlier in her candidacy, but it has drawn fire from coal countryadvocates who have challenged Clinton on coal issues, suggesting that acceptingit would be tantamount to accepting federal environmental regulations.

"Idon't want to leave [miners] behind," she said during the debate, which washeld at Washington University in St. Louis.

Clintonalso reiterated her call for broad energy development in the U.S., saying, "We'vegot to remain energy independent." She cited the increase in natural gas productionin recent years as a sign of progress towards this goal, but she noted that gasshould serve as a "transition to more renewable fuels."

Energyissues have largely been missing from the campaign debates, emerging only a fewtimes during the first presidential and only vice-presidential meetings. At thefirst debate, held Sept.26 at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., Clinton called for making the countrythe "clean energy superpower of the 21st century," touting the potentialof solar sector jobs.

Duringthe vice presidential debateon Oct. 4, Republican candidate Mike Pence promised to push back on regulatory burdensto the coal industry, mentioning the administration's "war on coal" fourtimes within the first 20 minutes of the event.