"However, it appears that, in many cases, the people have been robbed of these benefits," Rahall said. "The exemptions are granted. But I would hardly call pasture land as being something you can build an economy around. This is certainly not what we intended when passing the 1977 act."
As for OSM, Rahall said, "It pains me to say this, but OSM has been out to lunch.
"I do not think they can use budget cuts as an excuse anymore, not when it comes to failing to catch problems of the magnitude that are now being uncovered in the permitting process for major mining operations," he said. "Simply put, the agency's oversight has been a sham."
Wise said, "I'm greatly concerned about what appears to be a lack of oversight of mountaintop removal practices in our state.
"The apparent overuse of the fish, wildlife and recreation area as a post-mining land use classification appears to skirt the letter and the spirit of federal law," he said. "As I understand it, that law was meant to foster economic development such as the new prison at Mount Olive or Mount View High School in McDowell County, not more abandoned timber lots and deer preserves."
Al Klein, OSM's regional director in Pittsburgh, said, "We are presently looking into several issues ... in our evaluation of West Virginia's post-mining land use, mountaintop removal and approximate original contour determinations.
"We expect to have our report completed in early September and will follow up with any necessary corrective actions."