Sen. Byrd on coal: Wasn’t anybody paying attention?

December 10, 2009 by Ken Ward Jr.

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A week ago, Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., issued a call for the coal industry to “embrace the future,” a world where greenhouse gas emissions are limited and the negative effects of mountaintop removal coal mining are not only acknowledged, but maybe even addressed in some meaningful way.

I wonder how Sen. Byrd is feeling about now, because it looks like nobody on either side of the major debates facing the coal industry paid a bit of attention to a darned word he said.

Sen. Byrd called on the people of his state — and especially elected officials and those in the coal industry — to seek common ground, to find ways to address the real problems of global warming and mountaintop removal damage, while continuing to keep coal a part of the nation’s energy mix. On climate change, for example, Sen. Byrd spoke directly to those who continue to insist there is no such thing, and therefore no need to pass legislation to address it:

To be part of any solution, one must first acknowledge a problem. To deny the mounting science of climate change is to stick our heads in the sand and say, “Deal me out.” West Virginia would be much smarter to stay at the table.

The first reaction I saw to Sen. Byrd’s statement was from the group Appalachian Voices, which declared on its Web site that the  senator had made a “complete turnaround” of his position on mountaintop removal. Though unsaid, the clear suggestion was that Byrd now sided with environmental groups who want to ban mountaintop removal altogether. Is it significant that Sen. Byrd, who has so long championed coal, offered such a public scolding of the industry and its backers? Yes. But nowhere in that commentary did Byrd say mountaintop removal should be stopped.

And now this week, West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin is nearly beside himself — letting slip out and then apologizing for using a minor curse-word on statewide radio — and practically demanding that the longest serving senator in the history of this country explain himself:

Senator Byrd really truly deserves the opportunity, if there’s any misunderstanding, and right now there is misunderstanding, does he support mountaintop (removal mining) or does he wish to have mountaintop (removal mining) abolished?

Is the Senator against certain types of mining because he’s trying to preserve the traditional minings that we have?  Or he thinks that we can bring everybody together to where we can find a balance to do a little of everything?

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With all due respect to my good friend the governor, he ought to read Sen. Byrd’s statement again. It’s not all that hard to understand, that is, if you want to understand the senator’s message and learn something from it about where West Virginia is heading.

Regarding mountaintop removal, Sen. Byrd noted the obvious, that — like mechanization of the underground mines, it takes fewer workers:

… In recent years, West Virginia has seen record high coal production and record low coal employment … The increased use of mountaintop removal mining means that fewer miners are needed to meet company production goals.

And Sen. Byrd made it clear that national policymakers in Congress don’t like mountaintop removal, reflecting what he said is the view of their constituents:

… the practice of mountaintop removal mining has a diminishing constituency in Washington … Most members of Congress, like most Americans, oppose the practice, and we may not fully understand the effects of mountaintop removal mining on the health of our citizens.

Sen. Byrd continued:

… Most people understand that America cannot meet its current energy needs without coal, but there is strong bi-partisan opposition in Congress to the mountaintop removal method of mining it.

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BUT, and here’s the kicker if you’re an environmentalist who wants Byrd to help ban mountaintop removal (and note the use of “we” in this next part):

We have our work cut out for us in finding a prudent and profitable middle ground — but we will not reach it by fear mongering, grandstanding and outrage as a strategy.

Byrd also chided environmentalists who oppose all coal:

… There is no available alternative energy supply that could immediately supplant the use of coal for base load power generation in America. That is a stubborn fact that vexes some in the environmental community, but it is a reality.

Sen. Byrd further indicated his interest in seeking a solution for all sides, adding:

As your United States Senator, I must represent the opinions of the best interests of the entire Mountain State, not just those of coal operators and southern coalfield residents who may be strident supporters of mountaintop removal mining.

As much as anything else, Sen. Byrd took everyone to task for their refusal to compromise and, especially, for the use of out-of-control rhetoric, and for the screaming matches and efforts to drown out the other side that have characterized so much of the debate of late.

Sen. Byrd called Chamber of Commerce President Steve Roberts’ suggestion that West Virginia’s congressional delegate block health-care reform unless President Obama backs off the mountaintop removal issue “beyond foolish” and “morally indefensible.” Here’s more of what he said:

Scapegoating and stoking fear among workers over the permitting process is counter-productive … When coal industry representatives stir up public anger toward federal regulatory agencies, it can damage the state’s ability to work with those agencies to West Virginia’s benefit.

So, what’s been the reaction to all of this?

steveroberts-web.jpgFirst of all, business leaders simply don’t want to believe that Sen. Byrd is taking this sort of tack with them. Last week, West Virginia Chamber of Commerce President Steve Roberts left me this quote on my voice mail, responding to that part where the senator called Roberts’ actions “morally indefensible”:

Sen. Byrd’s strong language is uncharacteristic of Sen. Byrd, at least in terms of using that kind of language to a constituent.

I found it to be uncharacteristic and I forgive him for that. I don’t think that is the tone he intended to take or would have taken if he had stopped to think about it.

The Chamber has continued to attack what it calls the Obama administration’s “War on Coal,” and Friends of Coal, citing the potential layoffs of 500 CONSOL miners in Clay County, is telling its members:

The message is clear … that the claims by anti-mining elitists and environmental extremists that they are concerned about the people of West Virginia are hollow and false. It is also clear that their claims of opposition ONLY to mountaintop removal mining are equally false and hollow.

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And of course, a couple hundred coal miners showed up outside the WVDEP building on Monday, intent on yelling so loud — and blaring coal truck horns so much — that folks they disagree with wouldn’t get their say.

But the environmental community hasn’t responded in a much more sensible manner. At that rally over at WVDEP, at least one speaker I heard pointed to the crowed of Massey Energy workers and said that pretty soon they would all be out of a job. The environmentalists cheered at that thought.

Coalfield media outlets haven’t performed much better.

Hoppy, for example, was mostly concerned about watching how other West Virginia politicians reacted, to see if he could detect any lessening of Sen. Byrd’s traditional influence over other state elected officials.

And few other media outlets, other than the Gazette, have included any detailed explanation in their stories about the CONSOL layoffs so readers could understand how the company could easily have avoided this situation. The Daily Mail’s news stories certainly haven’t done that — and my lands, those layoffs have the DM’s right-wing columnist, Don Surber, so out of his head that he claimed of the air quality in the Kanawha Valley:

I live near a coal-fired power plant. I will put our air up against any in the land.

(Memo to Surber: Air quality in the Kanawha Valley exceeds federal standards for particulate matter and smog. Earlier this year, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that the Kanawha Valley has lagged behind other parts of the nation where people are living longer lives because the air pollution here hasn’t improved as much as in other parts of the country.)

About the only folks who seemed to be listening to Sen. Byrd were the Charleston Rotarians, who organized and hosted a reasonable, rationale and polite discussion earlier this week about the economic impacts of cap-and-trade legislation on West Virginia.

So where does that leave us? Well, as Sen. Byrd pointed out, there is a growing segment of the business community that embraces action on global warming. It’s led by American Electric Power, the United Mine Workers union and other who think working hard to make carbon capture and sequestration work is the answer to coal’s future. In Sen. Byrd’s words:

The truth is that some form of climate legislation will likely become public policy because most American voters want a healthier environment. Major coal-fired power plants and coal operators in West Virginia have wisely already embraced this reality, and are making significant investments to prepare.

But what about mountaintop removal? Sen. Byrd advocates seeking “a prudent and profitable middle ground.” He doesn’t say what that is, but concedes “we have our work cut out for us in finding” it.

Yesterday, the new director of the U.S. Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, Joe Pizarchik, talked a little bit about this in his first media interview:

There are genuine interests and legitimate concerns about that. I certainly can appreciate how having an area where maybe they grew up or maybe their ancestors lived and they’ve got a lot of heritage there, having that environment so drastically changed by that practice, I can appreciate them having the desire to see that that practice not occur and destroy what they’ve come to cherish and grow.  That makes a lot of sense.

In trying to figure out how to deal with that, we still have that statutory provision that allows for that activity to occur. Now, is it occurring in accordance with the standards? Should there be more limitations on it? Should there be more measures taken to protect? Should there be some areas where the activity will not occur?

I think all of those questions are valid questions for which we are seeking input on how to strike that balance.

Pizarchik says that OSMRE hopes to examine these questions as part of its ongoing rulemaking on the stream buffer zone rule.  Of course, that rulemaking isn’t expected to produce an actual proposed rule, let alone a final rule, until early 2011. And many of these sorts of possible ways to limit mountaintop removal damage have already been examined in great detail, only to be rejected by the Bush administration.

The one thing that Sen. Byrd seemed to be getting at is that this yelling and screaming, this name-calling, angry confrontations, intimidation and — perhaps above all — refusal to even consider compromise, isn’t getting West Virginia anywhere. We’re fighting old battles, while the rest of the nation and world are moving into the future.

Sen. Byrd concluded:

West Virginians can choose to anticipate change and adapt to it, or resist and be overrun by it. One thing is clear: The time has arrived for the people of the Mountain State to think long and hard about which course they want to choose.

Which course do you want to choose?

80 Responses to “Sen. Byrd on coal: Wasn’t anybody paying attention?”

  1. Judy Bonds says:

    Sorry Ken, I apologize.
    I was not ignoring your request to “circle back” , I didn’t see the request until after I had posted this last time.
    It seems to me that both sides would have to admit that each side has real issues to begin with.

  2. Brian Powell says:

    I think a reasonable middle-ground is to restrict MTR to sites that actually have post-mining development planned. The coal industry is right in that many coalfields counties have/had limited land available for large-scale development. MTR can be a tool to provide flat land if it is used correctly.

    What I would propose is that in order to secure the permits necessary for MTR mines, the coal companies must prove they have a viable post-mining development plan for a beneficial public use (shopping center, airport, hospital, highway, etc.). There can be economic analysis to demonstrate the plan is viable and sustainable. To ensure that the plans are real, the coal company would be required to show agreements with the intended post-mining users of the site verifying the plans and post a bond equal to the estimated construction cost of the post-mining projects.

    If all of the economic development plans are in place, I would allow the mine sites to be permitted following a rigorous EIS study with public comment process. The plans must be designed to minimize the total footprint of the mine and ensure that all impacts are mitigated to the greatest extent possible. The mining would be coupled with very stringent enforcement to ensure that the conditions of the permit are met. If the company fails to meet the conditions of the permit, I would impose heavy fines. If that fails to be a sufficient deterrent, seize the permits and land to turn them over to another company that will comply.

    This plan would help to balance the coal industry’s desire to mine the land with impacts on downstream residents, the need for developable land, and help to minimize environmental damage.

  3. Vernon says:

    Positive partial solutions/steps, which seem rational to me:
    1. Enforce existing regulations. DEP doesn’t do this. Small fines are not enforcement. Denying/revoking permits for chronic offenders would help. Dunkard Creek is one example of DEP’s “How could we know violating regulations would have a negative impact?” philosophy.
    2. Manchin could request ARC money for retraining at community colleges and other institutions. Byrd, Rockefeller, etc. could introduce a “carbon industry bill of rights” for education of miners/powerplant workers, etc., similar to GI Bill. These jobs are eventually going away with or without “environmentalist” activity. Even better, an “Appalachian Bill of Rights” for education to all Appalachian citizens in “coalfield” areas, which would be more fair to those who have been impacted by as well as those who have profited from MTR.
    3. Requirement to use dry press methods at coal prep plants rather than sludge dams or injection.
    4. Requirement to use ARRI methods for all permits with a “forestland” PMLU.
    5. Raise severance tax, with all increases going toward infrastructure improvements in coalfield communities (water systems, bridge and road repair, etc.). Otherwise, re-designate a bigger chunk of that 93% of the severance tax the WV state government keeps toward coalfield improvements.
    6. Manchin, Raney, Blankenship, etc. call for civil discourse rather than violent threats. Mike’s assertion above that violence is inevitable suggests that human beings are incapable of rationally checking their passions.
    That’s just a start, and I believe nearly all of that is something we’ve called for already.

  4. Nanette says:

    I would go even further than Mr. Powell, all land that any company would want to use the MTR method of extracting the coal would have to have some company or corporation already contracted to step in and use that site when mining is done. That would be an absolute must. All infrastructure would be financed by the companies involved. No tax money to pay any company to come in and build.

    No more of this approximate contour baloney, that land is useless and takes away from the natural beauty of the state. If the land is not going to be utilized immediately by another industry after the mining is finished no permit should be given under any circumstances.

    Also the cumulative effects of any new permits would have to be figured in with any mining that has already been done. If that effect is over a set limit, no permit.

    Another possibility to keep people employed would be another program such as the CCC for the people who have lost their jobs. There are years and years of work repairing what the coal industry has done to southern WV.

    We need programs for paying folks to retrain do other types of work. The list of improvements could be endless if we could get the minds together to work it out instead of fighting. This could be one of the most wonderful states in the union if we only had the leadership who cared enough for the state and her people to work to get this done. I believe it could truly be a reality if we could come together.

  5. civil joe says:

    Ken,

    Here’s a direct answer to your question. Without outlawing MTR completely, these principles would make the practice less of a net loss to the state and less harmful to communities, all the while creating more jobs as well as encouraging economic diversification.

    -Make meaningful reclamation that restores hydrological and biological functionality of forests and streams the standard. A lot of research still needs to be done, but a good start would be to require the preservation of topsoil in all cases.
    -Enforce AOC except where commercial development is happening on former mountains – no state projects (prisons etc.) which are borne on the backs of taxpayers.
    -Raise reclamation bonding so that it’s unprofitable for companies to abandon sites, and so that the state has the money to reclaim sites that are abandoned.
    -Require dry processing of coal. The slurry impoundments that have been criticized for years continue to grow and become more and more unsafe.
    -Make parent companies and mine operators liable for reclamation (or damages) in case their subsidiary coal company declares bankruptcy.
    -Enforce and levy meaningful penalties for breaking existing health, safety, and environmental laws. Restaffing the agencies that do this would create well-paying, skilled jobs.
    -Election campaign reform. Especially in judicial elections. Need I say more.
    -Tax reform to discourage absentee landownership and encourage in-state businesses – I believe that things would be done differently if those who profit from the way things are done today had to live with the impacts and consequences that West Virginians suffer. In Virginia, eminent domain can be exercised if land remains undeveloped for several years. Absentee landownership inhibits development. Other tax laws make West Virginia the worst state to do business in.
    -The West Virginia Council of Churches, as well as some independent chaplains, have called for peaceful discussion. I think that clergy would be great nonviolent, nonpartisan facilitators; and that churches would be a good venue for miners and activists to be treated with respect while sharing their concerns.
    -On a federal level: create policy, explain it, follow it. Is Obama trying to ban MTR? If so, why doesn’t he say so? Not knowing where politicians stand elevates the tension between those whose livelihoods depend on it and those whose lives are destroyed by it.

  6. civil joe says:

    I ought to mention that what I said about AOC is meaningless until we define AOC.

  7. Judy Bonds says:

    Great suggestions so far. Setting a limit on “cumulative impacts in a single water shed” would help minimize some of the damages from the discharges on stream/water quality and sediment as well.
    I am not sure if the “total maximum daily load” covers this or not. If it does then it is probably not being enforced.
    Ken has already mentioned this, but if we in Appalachia could pry more AML funds from the Federal Government, we could try to repair the damages and put people to work for a long time.

  8. Ken Ward Jr. says:

    I’m especially interested in this suggestion from Vernon … I wonder if any of the coalfield citizen groups or environmental organizations have written to the West Virginia Coal Association or anyone else in the industry and asked them to issue such a statement.

    Ken.

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  10. scott 14 says:

    How about limiting the amount of fills by allowing mine operatons to back fill existing fills higher. Large mine sites will be able to do this by back hauling onto older permits. Funny how you never hear that from judy or some of her folks. How about Tort reform here in WV. How about allowing the folks in the county where the mine site is located to have more say on permiting issues than say someone who has never seen the area where the mine is going. How about giving more weight to tax losses by a county in which the mine is located. How about stopping the frivouls law suits that stop responsable mine owners from working. Total taxes paid to a county should be considered. If a mine site pays more than 20 percent of the tax base then they should have special considerations.

  11. Proud WV Veteran says:

    Middle ground:
    Post MTR use should be tilted towards the clean energy future. Believe climate change, don’t believe climate change, doesn’t matter – as our VERY senior Senator stated -acknowledge reality, legislation is forthcoming. Position industry and the State to take advantage of it. Any MTR site that does not have an immediate legitimate beneficial plan for post mining use should be required to install clean energy facilities as a post MTR use. Federal and State should provide appropriate support for building the facilities but the companies will end up owning and profiting from them. Whether it be solar, wind, biomass, hydraulic or White-tail on treadmills. Using clean energy sources to produce off-peak power will be key if solar and wind become real players in the power industry because generation drops off at night. One way of offsetting that problem without having to store electricity (expensive) is to pump water uphill during the day and generate hydro power by releasing it during the night. We have hills, we have water, we have lots of empty land. Let the mining companies work themselves out of the mining side of the industry by letting them incrementally replace coal with sustainable forms of power generation. Jobs will be created building and maintaining these facilities. Partial offset for cost disparity clean power generation can be provided by offering tax credits for any additional public good provided on these sites such as recreation or flood control. The companies, worker’s, communities and the environment all benefit.

  12. Mayfly says:

    I applaud Senator Byrd for his very concise statements, and I agree. His statements were his own; anyone who is familiar with his manner of speech could tell that. He pointed out clearly that the “talk” about job losses has the purpose of revving up fear and negativity in coal people against those concerned about healthy water and air–something any thinking individual is concerned about. The only reason there is a down turn right now in coal mining activity is because the demand has fallen just as he stated. Whose side is Senator Byrd on? Senator Byrd is on the side of truth and common sense. Period. Try it–it feels good. Thank you very much Senator Byrd. I appreciate you.

  13. CRB says:

    There is no doubt that since MTR has advanced to what it is today, the number of miners have declined, our communities have depopulated, a lot of them have disappeared, and communities water, and air quality has deteriorated. I can’t help remembering what Don Blankenship said about a month ago, is that Massey is in good shape through 2010, and into 2011, but if we are still having problems getting MTR permits, that they was just start focusing their attention to underground mining. To me that means an increase in employment of more miners. If what Senator Byrd said, ” that there is strong bi-partisan opposition in Congress to mountaintop removal method of mining,” is true. And with the EPA is taking a closer look at mountaintop removal mining, there would be a need for more underground mining, thus a more demand for more miners. That would definitely help our unemployment in West Virginia, and all Appalachia, and then that just might jump start our communities once again. It’s not a tough transition from going from being a surface miner, to being an underground miner. And there is a lot of reclamation work to be done. But at the same time, we need to start a serious dialog, about job diversity. One thing we can’t deny, and that is coal is a finite resource, and it’s not coming back, once it’s gone. So job diversity has to be a serious issue for all West Virginians to be concerned about. Our elected officials have a duty to get this dialog started, and to move the coalfields out of poverty, and into prosperity. That’s why Senator Byrd said, “West Virginians can choose to anticipate change and adapt to it, or resist and be overrun by it. One thing is clear. The time has arrived for the people of the Mountain State to think long and hard about which course they want to choose. ” The only reason MTR exist, is to maximize the industry profit.

  14. Thomas Rodd says:

    Great dialogue and discussion here. Thanks, everyone.

  15. Ken Ward Jr. says:

    Scott 14,

    I didn’t see much middle ground there … all of your suggestions seem pretty one-sided.

    How about the coal industry make some suggestions for how to address the legitimate concerns raised by coalfield residents and environmental groups about the damage done by mining? Will anyone from the coal industry even admit those concerns are legitimate?

    Ken.

  16. TheTruthHurts says:

    Ken Ward: I understand what you are trying to accomplish with your question about Byrd’s statement on reaching a “middle-ground.”
    There is no way any of us can really answer that question since it would require that we have a profound knowledge of the laws regulating the industry, the permit laws, enviromental laws, etc., etc. The problem is that we are all so subjective in our thoughts of this issue and so ignorant of the laws that apply that how could we possibly come up with an informed, educated opinion.
    Anyway here’s one idea. If these companies really and seriously want to do this MTR mining first they must meet all legal requirement then to insure that they will follow-through and do the proposed reclamation they should have to set aside the money to reclaim it when they finish. And if they don’t reclaim it the money is there to finish their job. Before you say no, just remember these coal companies put up the money to purchase millions of dollars in equipment, before they start the mining. Believe me they have the money.

  17. scott 14 says:

    Ken, ya I guess they were on sided. On the other hand could you please count the number of people from Clay and Nicholas countys that have raised concerns over our operation. Seems to me that you could count them on one hand. I think your trying to get blood from a onion on this issue of middle ground. It is such a polarizing issue I dont know that a middle ground exists. Kinda like politics in America today.

  18. edouard says:

    Morgantown native Michael Tomasky, now American politics editor-in-chief for Britain’s Guardian, gave a nice shout-out to Senator Byrd and this column by Mr. Ward on Friday, “Senator Byrd joins reality-based community”:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/michaeltomasky/2009/dec/11/robert-byrd-mountaintop-removal

  19. Dave Bassage says:

    To me the crux of this issue is that the state strategy on coal needs to focus on assuring that coalfield communities are not just grateful for the jobs and tax income mining produces while it is happening, but in a position to be grateful for what they are left with after the mines are no longer active.

    There was a time when a single mine could support multiple generations of miners. Today we essentially have a migrant miner scenario as the active mining period for any given mine has been dramatically shortened and number of jobs available significantly diminished by technology.

    Meanwhile, for a variety of reasons, coal is facing significant competition from other energy alternatives, and greater scrutiny for non-energy issues such as environmental, health, and climate impacts. As Senator Byrd accurately observes, coal faces a far different economic landscape than it has traditionally occupied, and like any business, needs to adapt strategies in the face of the current situation.

    So to respond to Ken’s search for middle ground, I’d propose completely revamping the public comment aspect of permitting to actively engage citizens and community leaders in the post mining land use determination for any given mine. Mining operations should actively engage local communities BEFORE submitting a permit application, and document the extent to which they’ve met the concerns of those most directly impacted as part of their permit application.

    Meanwhile, given the great uncertainly surrounding the entire energy sector in the years to come, the state needs to aggressively pursue diversifying our economic base. No economy is healthy if it relies too heavily on a single business sector.

    While the climate change issue is unlikely to go away, its relatively recent rise to prominence in national and global policy discussions makes it understandable why some might hope it would.

    But caring about our health, job security, and prospects for future generations has a much longer track record. For coal to compete in today’s business climate it must focus on those priorities, not by meeting their interpretation of minimum legal requirements, but by demonstrating their ability to outperform competing energy sources in terms of their local, national, and global impacts on values people have always held dear.

    And state policy makers must focus not on propping up the industry that has traditionally been our economic base, but on planning for a future that may or may not include coal as a major player. West Virginia won’t get to decide the future demand for coal. We do get to decide how prepared we’ll be should alternatives emerge that shrink that demand.

  20. Ken Ward Jr. says:

    Folks,

    There’s much more commentary on this in today’s Sunday Gazette-Mail, and I’ve posted links in a new Coal Tattoo post here:

    http://blogs.wvgazette.com/coaltattoo/2009/12/13/blast-from-the-past-dave-callaghan-on-mtr/

    Please continue the discussion with that post … Ken.

  21. Ken Ward Jr. says:

    And, here’s what Michael Tomasky had to say, and keep in mind, when you talk about the world watching, that’s what Michael’s commentary is… the world watching:

    It’s been brought to my attention that Robert Byrd issued a statement the other day in which he actually acknowledged that there are downsides to mountaintop removal mining. Yes, this is obvious to the overall world. But for a West Virginia politician to utter these words is stunning.

    Ken Ward of the Charleston Gazette gives a complete rundown of the smackdown here. What smackdown, you ask? The one that ensued in the wake of Byrd’s comments. You really should read this Ward post, but for our purposes, let me merely note that the counter-attack was led by Governor Joe Manchin, the man likely to replace Byrd in the Senate when the fateful day arrives.

    Byrd’s comments were completely moderate and reasonable: in sum and substance, environmentalists are wrong to think there’s such a thing as a coal-free future; at the same time, we can’t ignore climate science evidence and should therefore seek “a prudent and profitable middle ground” that will be elusive as long as there’s “fear mongering, grandstanding and outrage as a strategy.”

    It’s a big deal and a heartening development. I’m generally not in the took-you-long-enough camp. A positive development is a positive development.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/michaeltomasky/2009/dec/11/robert-byrd-mountaintop-removal

  22. melinda says:

    I applaud Senator Byrd. He is right. Arguing, fighting, threatening and demonstrating are getting us no where. It is time to sit down like adults and have rational discussions to find solutions that everyone can live with. To say that you do not understand what the Sen. is saying is ignorant on your part. He is merely stating the facts as he sees them and he is wise in his observation and advice. No one is West Virginia wants to see these miners lose their jobs. I certainly do not. The Clay county lay offs affect many of my friends and I am sure the economy of central WV. There has to be a better, safer way to do things. I do not pretend to know what they are, but sticking our heads in the sand will not help.
    God Bless Senator Byrd! Let’s talk not fight.

  23. Thomas Rodd says:

    Good comments by Dave Bassage.

  24. Expatriated West Virginian says:

    Senator Byrd is doing too little too late. Just like when he joined the Ku Klux Klan in order to survive small town hillbilly life and to be able to enter into politics, he went along with BIGCOAL’S raping and pillaging of the state he loved in order to survive 40 years in politics. Now that he is nearing his end he seems to want to do something to ameliorate the past.

    So, even though he has brought a lot of money to the state, he can be said to have had to make a pact with the Devil in order to accomplish his goals.

    To me, Great Man that I think he is, I wonder how hard it was for him to look the other way for so long…

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  27. […] he offers a proposal to respond to Sen. Robert C. Byrd’s call for a “prudent and profitable middle ground” on the issue, one he says will probably be considered unacceptable by both the coal industry […]

  28. […] I asked on Friday if anyone was paying attention when Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., urged the coal industry to “embrace the fu… […]

  29. […] obviously not especially surprising, given the strong — and sometimes over the top — stance Gov. Manchin has taken as the state’s mining operators try to fend off any […]

  30. […] become pretty popular among coal state politicians to blame the Obama administration or environmentalists for coal’s problems. You don’t see too much mention of the other challenges facing the industry … well, […]

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