West Virginia Senator Denounces Mining's Environmental Hazards

The Appalachian political establishment has long been supportive of the coal industry. But West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd, perhaps nearing the end of his career at 92 years old, is changing his tune a bit since last month's fatal mining accident. The Allegheny Front's Estelle Tran has the story.

Read the transcript »Close the Transcript

Transcript

OPEN: The Appalachian political establishment has long been supportive of the coal industry. But West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd, perhaps nearing the end of his career at 92 years old, is changing his tune a bit since last month's fatal mining accident. The Allegheny Front's Estelle Tran has the story.

TRAN: Byrd recently released an editorial statement, saying West Virginia's people, not its coal, are the state's greatest resource. Byrd says, --quote-- "If the process of mining destroys nearby wells and foundations, if blasting and digging and relocating streams unearths harmful elements and releases them into the environment causing illness and death, that process should be halted and the resulting hazards to the community abated." The senator says that mining is a privilege, not a right, and energy companies that operate safety and with minimal environmental impact should be rewarded.

TRAN: Vernon Haltom, a co-director of Coal River Mountain Watch, works against mountaintop mining. Haltom says he hopes other legislators follow Byrd's lead.

HALTOM: It's high time that everyone recognize that people are indeed our greatest resource. Coal is declining ... And we do need to make a speedy transition to cleaner forms of energy and safer jobs and economic diversification in the very near future.

TRAN: Haltom believes a coal company's reward for complying with state and federal regulations should be the right to continue operating. He says no West Virginia coal mining company has shut down because of a poor track record. For The Allegheny Front, I'm Estelle Tran.