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Toomey backs Romney during business tour

| Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2012, 12:41 a.m.
U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey (left) is guided on a tour by Products Support Operations Manager Geoffrey Blair at Cleveland Brothers Equipment Co. on Monday, Aug. 6, 2012 in Hunker. Steph Anderson | Tribune-Review

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey on Monday kept up his defense of Republican presumptive presidential nominee Mitt Romney, saying unsubstantiated attacks leveled against the former Massachusetts governor are irresponsible.

After a tour of Cleveland Brothers Equipment Co. in Hunker, Toomey fired back at Sen. Harry Reid, the Democratic majority leader who last week claimed Romney has not paid personal income taxes in a decade.

“That was irresponsible for the majority leader of the United States Senate to make a totally unsubstantiated accusation,” Toomey said. “It doesn't even deserve to be taken seriously. Sen. Reid, his credibility has been greatly diminished.”

Toomey spent much of Monday touring businesses in Fayette and Westmoreland counties. He was scheduled to attend political fundraisers in Latrobe and Murrysville in the evening.

Toomey said his visit to Cleveland Brothers was part of an attempt to better understand the burgeoning Marcellus shale industry in Western Pennsylvania.

About 80 percent of business at Cleveland Brothers, which rents heavy equipment, now is related to the Marcellus shale industry, according to Geof Blair, the company's local branch manager.

Paul M. Counahan, senior vice president of Cleveland Brothers, and other company executives met privately with Toomey for about 30 minutes to discuss potential legislation geared to assisting the coal and gas industry.

“We're looking for legislation that is more friendly to our customers. But also we want to be good stewards to the environment,” Counahan said.

Toomey said the flourishing natural-gas industry should be tapped by the federal government. The first-term senator proposed converting government vehicle fleets to natural gas.

“We're not talking about government subsidies, but if government operates natural-gas fleets, vehicles will be cheaper to operate. If we can establish a plan, I think that is all the catalyst we need for public investment,” Toomey said.

Westmoreland County commissioners and the county transit authority are exploring retrofitting a newly built bus-maintenance facility in Hempfield to handle natural-gas vehicles.

Toomey said that is the type of project that will bolster the local economy.

“We ought to be looking toward encouraging compressed natural-gas refueling centers,” Toomey said.

In Fayette County, Toomey reviewed the Fay-Penn Economic Development Council's plans for the proposed Dunbar Township Business Park, a 311-acre site along Route 119 near the Laurel Mall.

The 250 developable acres will be available for major gas-pipeline companies and others, leasing available space between 10 acres and 50 acres, according to Fay-Penn Executive Director Michael A. Jordan Jr.

Toomey asked for more information on the park because many gas-industry companies have contacted him with questions and concerns, most commonly where to locate their businesses.

Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com. Mark Hofmann, a staff writer with Trib Total Media, contributed to this story. He can be reached at 724-626-3539 or mhofmann@tribweb.com.

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