Union coal miners agreed with environmental activists Monday evening that more needs to be done to address public concerns over mountaintop removal mining.
Miners from Boone and Logan counties told a gubernatorial task force they want to keep their jobs, but don't want to harm nearby residents in the process.
"Local people can sit down and solve local problems," said John Hardin, a United Mine Workers member who works at Arch Coal Inc.'s Hobet 21 complex along the Boone-Lincoln county line.
In their first public hearing and their second meeting, task force members also heard staunch coal industry defenses of mountaintop removal and a barrage of complaints about the hearing's format.
The 17-member panel met Monday evening at the Marshall University Graduate College campus in South Charleston.
Bill Raney, president of the West Virginia Coal Association, recited a list of statistics about coal's economic impacts on the state. He said all of it would be lost if mountaintop removal mines were more strongly regulated.
"The opponents of mountaintop removal say they don't want to harm the mining industry," Raney said. "But if these practices aren't allowed to continue, everyone will suffer - the industry, the state and everyone who looks to us to secure the state's future."
James Weekley, who lives in the path of a proposed mountaintop removal mine at Blair in Logan County, said the practice actually costs the state jobs by allowing coal companies to mine more coal with fewer workers.
"This mountaintop removal is a massacre to our mountains, our valleys and our streams," Weekley said. "And this high-tech mining is definitely taking jobs."
Ben White, a spokesman for the Logan County Development Authority, asked why environmentalists don't criticize other types of mountaintop removal, such as that used to build shopping centers like Southridge Centre.
White also argued that mountaintop removal will provide more flat land for development.