Senator Byrd and the Climate Bill

Late U.S. senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia seemed open to climate change legislation. His successor is unlikely to take the same stance.

Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia, the longest-serving legislator in U.S. history, died June 28 at age 92 due to serious illness. With Byrd’s death come a number of other issues for the Senate, including the uncertain fate of the climate bill. Byrd spent much of his life attached in some way to the coal industry. His foster father and stepfather were both miners, and he spent his life surrounded by mining issues and concerns. Despite the fact that Byrd wrote in his autobiography that miners were often subject to exploitation by absentee owners, he staunchly supported the industry and stood in the way of any initiatives that got in coal’s way, like the Kyoto Protocol and the restriction of mountaintop removal mining.

But late in his senatorial career, Byrd had a change of heart. In 2008, Byrd criticized the safety standards of mining companies. In an address in late 2009, Byrd urged the coal industry to acknowledge the problems and be part of the solution, by embracing the future. He began calling for clean coal measures and voiced support for carbon sequestration. It seemed, at the very least, that he was open to supporting climate change legislation.

His successor will be appointed by Governor Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Though it’s not known who the governor will choose, Manchin is a firm advocate of the coal industry, and it’s almost certain Byrd’s successor will be a coal apologist—one who’s unlikely to lend support to a climate change bill. What’s more, the appointment requires a special election in West Virginia, and the seat may not be filled until August, and possibly November.

Sources: Examiner.com; Matter Network.

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