THE BLOG
06/28/2010 04:18 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Will Gov. Manchin Heed Sen. Byrd's Climate Call?

10 years ago, Sen. Robert Byrd blocked a move to end the use of coal at the Capitol Hill Power Plant. Just this month, he voted in support of the EPA's authority to regulate greenhouse gases. The evolution in his environmental views is another example of Sen. Byrd's "courage to change over time."

It was a courage he displayed up to the end of his life.

Will West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin respect that courage, and appoint a new Senator that shares Byrd's commitment to an energy policy that recognizes the reality of climate change?

Or will he demagogue the issue as he has in the past, and appoint a clean energy policy obstructionist?

Byrd did not cast his vote quietly, but tried in his final days to lead his state -- so closely identified with the coal industry -- towards an embrace of a 21st century energy strategy:

I have been working with many of my colleagues to help shape a bill that will be good for the future of coal and the coal industry in my home State of West Virginia. Having a seat at the table and being open to discussions on these matters has enabled me to add provisions relating to clean coal technologies, job creation, and transitions to new jobs to proposed legislation.

And I have secured commitments to provide billions of dollars for constructing the next generation of cleaner coal-fired power plants, and am currently negotiating for billions more to support businesses and job creation in the West Virginia region, as well as to improve highways, broadband access, and other critical infrastructure and economic development services for the people, entrepreneurs, and businesses that will make West Virginia stronger in the future.

These provisions are beneficial for my home state of West Virginia and for the people of the entire Appalachia region.

The Murkowski "Disapproval Resolution" overturns the "endangerment finding." This in essence is like voting to assert that there is no climate change or global warming going on, and to dismiss scientific facts that already exist.

As I have pointed out before, to deny the mounting science of climate change is to stick our heads in the sand and say "deal me out." West Virginia needs to stay at the table, as should all Senators who have concerns about our energy policy."

But the Ken Ward Jr., of West Virginia's Coal Tattoo blog, reminds us today that Gov. Manchin has not been listening to the most revered elected official in the history of his state. He broke with Byrd this month, supporting the ban on EPA to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

After the governor told the Associated Press today that he believed who he chose was important because of the impact on the climate debtate, Ward asked the governor's spokeperson if the senatorial replacement would have to adhere to the governor's views on climate and energy. He did not get a straight answer.

Salon.com"s Steve Kornacki reports that Gov. Manchin is intent on winning that Senate seat for himself in the next election, so we can expect short-term politics won't be far from the governor's mind when choosing the interim replacement.

But perhaps he should hold the same faith in the West Virginian people as Robert Byrd, recognize that a Senator who leads can craft a climate policy that also protects and creates jobs, and know that such a politician will ultimately be rewarded at the ballot box.

Originally posted at OurFuture.org