"Any company that establishes a pattern of negligence resulting in injuries and death should be replaced by a company that conducts business more responsibly," Byrd said. "No doubt many energy companies are keen for a chance to produce West Virginia coal."
And, Byrd said that the coal industry "must also respect the land that yields the coal, as well as the people who live on the land."
"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," Byrd said.
"The sovereignty of West Virginia must also be respected," he added.
"The monolithic power of industry should never dominate our politics to the detriment of local communities," Byrd said.
Byrd said, "we have coal companies in West Virginia that go out of their way to operate safely and with minimal impact on our environment. Those companies should be commended and rewarded."
But, he added, "The old chestnut that 'coal is West Virginia's greatest natural resource' deserves revision. I believe that our people are West Virginia's most valuable resource. We must demand to be treated as such."
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.