Front Porch Blog

Carte Goodwin 101

Last Friday, West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin appointed his former chief counsel, Carte Goodwin, to fill the vacated Senate seat of the late Robert C. Byrd. Goodwin, at the age of 36, has become the youngest member of the US Senate, replacing the chamber’s oldest and longest serving member. Goodwin will hold the seat until November, at which point Manchin hopes to fill it.

Speaking of Byrd, Governor Manchin said, “I think today we’ve honored him by choosing a worthy replacement.” Both President Obama and US Representative Nick Rahall [D-WV3] praised the appointment.

Before he had even taken the oath of office, Goodwin was already blasting the climate bill. Our nation’s newest Senator proclaimed:

From what I’ve seen of the Waxman-Markey bill that passed the House of Representatives and other proposals pending in the Senate, they simply are not right for West Virginia.

And went on to say:

I will not support any piece of legislation that threatens any West Virginia job, any West Virginia family, or jeopardizes the long-term economic security of this state.

Quite the mantra. But Goodwin must realized that coal mining employs fewer people than it did at the turn of the last century in West Virginia? Owing much to the advent of mountaintop removal, the increasingly mechanized industry has taken the miner out of the mine and turned what once amounted to 130,000 jobs in West Virginia alone, to around 20,000 jobs.

Is Goodwin not concerned about the declining availability of Central Appalachian coal, and what this will mean for the “long-term economic security” of his state? As staunch coal advocate Rep. Nick Rahall himself has admitted:

The state’s most productive coal seams likely will be exhausted in 20 years. And while coal will remain an important part of the economy, the state should emphasize green job development.

On a brighter note, the Associated Press points out that Goodwin was the principal author of coal-mine rescue reforms following the Sago and Aracoma mine disasters of 2006. Yet, Coal Tattoo notes that Goodwin was also involved in “Governor Manchin’s decision to back off any real investigation of the concerns about the safety of Marsh Fork Elementary School in Raleigh County.” Marsh Fork Elementary sits below Massey’s massive earthen Shumate impoundment, which holds back billions of gallons of coal sludge. Byrd, contrarily, showed true concern for the students and families of West Virginia, making the the following statement about Marsh Fork and Massey:

“For the sake of the kids, they should address these serious environmental concerns at Marsh Fork Elementary immediately.”

Not long before he passed away, Senator Byrd addressed the coal industry and the state of West Virginia stating:

The greatest threats to the future of coal do not come from possible constraints on mountaintop removal mining or other environmental regulations, but rather from rigid mindsets, depleting coal reserves, and the declining demand for coal as more power plants begin shifting to biomass and natural gas as a way to reduce emissions.

He furthered:

Change has been a constant throughout the history of our coal industry. 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.

Only time will tell if Goodwin is willing to accept the realities of the 21st century and embrace the change that Byrd envisioned.

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