Senator Byrd's Climate Stance Surprises West Virginia & Coal Industry

WASHINGTON, Dec. 18 (UPI) — West Virginia politicians and coal industry leaders say they’re surprised and puzzled by remarks on coal mining from Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va.

Byrd, 92, a longtime opponent of environmental restrictions on his state’s $3.5 billion coal industry, said this month, “The truth is that some form of climate legislation will likely become public policy” and will adversely affect coal mining, warning, “West Virginians can choose to anticipate change and adapt to it or resist and be overrun by it.”

Those remarks have flabbergasted many in the state, the Washington publication Politico reported Friday.

“To me, it was quite amazing,” Ken Hechler, a veteran West Virginia Democratic officeholder who served as congressman from 1959 to 1977, told the publication. “It was the first time that he had been at all critical of the coal industry. It was truly unexpected.”

“Over the years, he’s been a proponent of coal,” added Art Kirkendoll, the influential Democratic president of the Logan County Commission. “He’s the ranking senator in the Senate, a very powerful man, has accomplished a lot of things. Anytime he makes a statement — especially about a controversial issue — it has an impact on things.”

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

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