Sen Robert Byrd is Dead; What Does That Mean for the Environment?

  • Published on June 28th, 2010

Robert Byrd of West VirginiaThe longest-serving member of Congress in US History, Sen Robert Byrd (D-WV), is dead at 92. He was first elected to the Senate in 1958, 52 years ago.

Byrd will be remembered for taking courageous stands against the Gulf War (at a time when most other Democrats were jumping on the Bush bandwagon), and more recently for going against the power structure of his state of West Virginia by saying “Coal Must Embrace The Future”.

“Change has been a constant throughout the history of our coal industry,” Byrd said in an op-ed piece last December. “West Virginians can choose to anticipate change and adapt to it or resist and be overrun by it. One thing is clear: The time has arrived for the people of the Mountain State to think long and hard about which course they want to choose.”

[social_buttons]It’s that last issue that makes his passing particularly sad for those concerned about climate change. Byrd was a unique voice in favor of taking action; it’s unlikely anyone else appointed to fill out the remaining two and a half year’s of Byrd’s term by WV’s Democratic Governor Joe Manchin will be willing to stand up to the coal interests that dominate the state.

One more roadblock… and one more poignant reminder of just how much Harry Reid squandered by failing to bring forward legislation while the Democrats commanded a 60 vote majority.

Because of the way the WV statute is written, a special election wouldn’t be held this year (because WV has already held its primary); instead, Manchin will appoint a caretaker to fill out the term. He has already ruled out appointing himself; Senate Democrats will remain one vote short on all critical legislation until an appointment is made.

Senator Byrd’s courageous speech opposing the Iraq War:



About the Author

Jeremy Bloom is the Editor of RedGreenAndBlue. He lives in New York, where he combines his passion for the environment with his passion for film, and is working on making the world a better place.