Monday, June 28, 2010

At the end, Byrd spoke truth to the power of coal

This morning's death of West Virginia Sen. Robert C. Byrd prompts us to note that he "ended his career by . . . questioning the state's powerful coal industry," as Greg Moore writes in The Charleston Gazette. I posted the following on The Arena on Politico this morning:

As someone who watched Byrd from across a state line in the Central Appalachian coalfield, I will remember him for the statements he made about the coal industry in the last two years of his life. While other West Virginia politicians were giving the usual knee-jerk reactions in support of the industry, which accounts for 7 percent of West Virginia’s gross state product, Byrd said the industry should “never dominate our politics to the detriment of local communities” and “Coal must embrace the future” in response to industry complaints about the Obama administration’s effort to crack down on the mountaintop-removal strip mining of coal.

Yes, he surely knew that he was nearing the end of his life and would never be on another ballot, but I give him credit for saying what people in Central Appalachia needed to hear at a time when their major industry was facing change and other politicians offered little more than Pablum. This was power speaking truth to power. --Al Cross, director, Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, University of Kentucky


Ray said...

More then a few Kentucky politicians should take note of those words from Byrd. Over here we are so consumed with coal is good that we are naming buildings on our UK campus in their honor...

Anonymous said...

I'm having trouble finding any verification for Byrd saying anything negative publicly about MTR and WVa coal mining practices prior to less than seven months ago. Not sure that qualifies as "years" but I might be wrong. It's unfortunate it took the late Senator so long to recognize the irreparable damage caused by the mining policies he fought for and supported so long. He should well be remembered for his legacy of being a D-senator who never translated that good environmental health could translate to quality economic health. WVa's future will be a mirror of these positions, facilitating neither environmental nor economic wealth. Far too little far too late from from this senator.