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Ken Hechler Also Running For Byrd’s Senate Seat

News broke today that former Congressman and West Virginia Secretary of State Ken Hechler has also filed to run for the vacated Senate seat of the late Robert C. Byrd. Representative Capito, meanwhile, has announced that she will not be seeking the seat.

Hechler stated this morning:

I don’t want to make it a campaign against Gov. Manchin. I want to make it about mountaintop removal. A vote for me is not a vote for Ken Hechler — it’s tantamount to a vote against mountaintop removal.

Hechler is a long time opponent of mountaintop removal. The 95-year-old former representative was arrested last year for blocking traffic and protesting Massey Energy at one of the company’s prep plants in Raleigh County. More recently, Hechler took part in a protest at Marsh Fork Elementary in Coal River Valley. Marsh Fork Elementary sits below Massey’s massive earthen Shumate impoundment, which holds back billions of gallons of coal sludge. Close to the dam and the school, mountaintop removal operations detonate earth shattering explosives.

Representative Hechler and other members of the 1962 House Committee on Science and Astronautics

After being elected to the House in 1958 (the same year Senator Byrd was elected to the Senate), Hechler served nine terms. In 1974, after a House amendment was introduced to allow mountaintop removal in to the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act, Hechler proclaimed:

Mountaintop removal is the most devastating form of mining on steep slopes. Once we scalp off a mountain and the spoil runs down the mountainside and the acid runs into the water supply, there is no way to check it. This is not only esthetically bad as anyone can tell who flies over the State of West Virginia or any place where the mountaintops are scraped off, but also it is devastating to those people who live below the mountain. Some of the worst effects of strip mining in Kentucky, West Virginia, and other mountainous areas result from mountaintop removal. McDowell County in WV, which has mined more coal than any other county in the Nation, is getting ready right now to strip mine off four or five mountaintops. They are displacing families and moving them out of those areas because everybody down slope from where there is mountaintop mining is threatened. I certainly hope that all the compromises that have been accepted by the committee, offered by industry in the committee, that now we do not compromise what little is left of this bill by amendments such as this.

Hechler served as a military officer in World War II, helped President Franklin Roosevelt write his 13-volume public papers, and was the only member of Congress to march with Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma, Alabama in 1965.

He does not expect to win the seat, but has noted:

I’m running for the environmentalists who are opposed to mountaintop removal. It’s a way to put it on the ballot. I’m trying to give an opportunity for all those people in the state to show there is strength in our numbers.

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