Last week, we mentioned West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin’s call for Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., to “clarify” his recent statements about coal and mountaintop removal.
That call from Manchin came in a bit of a rant on Hoppy Kercheval’s statewide radio show on the MetroNews network. Gov. Manchin is continuing to challenge Sen. Byrd, asking the senator to either pledge his allegiance to mountaintop removal or explain his opposition to the practice.
Manchin’s latest on this came in a story yesterday in the Daily Mail, in which the governor said:
I want to know if he’s against mountaintop removal completely or if he just wants to modify it. I want to make sure we’re still on the same page. If we have some clarification, it will help all of us.
The Daily Mail story also reported:
Manchin said his questions and concerns are not meant to be critical of Byrd, who has traditionally been a big proponent of the state’s coal industry.
“(Sen. Byrd) has been a champion for all of us,” said Manchin. “He’s been a tremendous friend and mentor.”
The governor also vehemently denies accusations that his comments regarding Byrd’s coal statement are at all indicative of his own possible intentions to run for the senator’s seat in the future.
“This has nothing to do with that,” he said.
Manchin admits he often thinks about what he will do when his second term as governor expires. He said he would like to stay in public life but hasn’t taken any formal steps, such as forming an exploratory committee, to pursue any seat in particular.
“I haven’t done a thing. I’ll explore that later on,” said Manchin. “There’s not a better job than governor in this whole country.”
However, Manchin says he is keeping all his options open.
“I haven’t ruled a thing out.”
Are Sen. Byrd and Gov. Manchin on the same page on mountaintop removal?
Well, Manchin has called EPA efforts to more closely examine mountaintop removal permits “cruel and inhumane,” and promised to get “very boisterous” if the Obama administration doesn’t start moving some permits out the door. Manchin has gotten pretty good at helping to fan the flames of coal miners who are angry about the increased scrutiny mountaintop removal is getting.
And Sen. Byrd? Well, it wasn’t all that long ago — only 10 years — that Sen. Byrd was letting the environmentalists have it from the Senate floor, when he was pushing a legislative rider to overturn one of U.S. District Judge Charles H. Haden’s mountaintop removal rulings:
“Let me assure you: My amendment is not the toxic monster that it is purported to be,” Byrd said. “But you certainly wouldn’t know that from all the frothing at the mouth by people who either have no idea what they are talking about, or who, for some reason, are deliberately trying to mislead.” Byrd attacked environmentalists, ridiculing them for carrying banners and signs. He noted that protesters have shown up recently at several of his own re-election campaign events.
“These head-in-the-cloud individuals peddle dreams of an idyllic life among old-growth trees, but they seem ignorant of the fact that, without the mines, jobs will disappear, tables will go bare, schools will not have the revenue to teach our children, towns will not have the income to provide even basic services,” Byrd said.
But Sen. Byrd in his more recent statement that coal must “embrace the future” urged the coal industry and its political supporters to tone things down:
Scapegoating and stoking fear among workers over the permitting process is counter-productive.
West Virginians may demonstrate anger toward the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over mountaintop removal mining, but we risk the very probable consequence of shouting ourselves out of any productive dialogue with EPA and our adversaries in the Congress.
Byrd also acknowledged that:
It is also a reality that 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 yet fully understand the effects of mountaintop removal mining on the health of our citizens.
And speaking directly to coal and its supporters, Byrd observed:
We have our work cut out for us in finding a prudent and profitable middle ground – but we will not reach it by using fear mongering, grandstanding and outrage as a strategy. As your United States Senator, I must represent the opinions and 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.