The task force and Jackson, however, originally suggested creating an Office of Community Impact within the state Division of Environmental Protection, rather than the coalfield development office within the Development Office.
As originally proposed, the new agency would assess what the impact of specific mining proposals might be on communities, work to lessen those, and try to figure out how to use old mining sites for community development when coal is gone. Under the Development Office, the agency will work more on developing mine sites.
"It made a lot of sense for the Development Office to be looking at those things rather than DEP," Jackson said.
Some of the community impact assessment duties will be handled by the new blasting office, Jackson said.
The mountaintop removal bill has not yet gone to the governor, but it appears likely that Underwood will sign it. In a news release Sunday, the governor praised the Legislature for passing the bill.
Environmentalists are not happy with the bill. John McFerrin, president of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, said the legislation will give "the illusion of corrective action while, in reality, maintaining the status quo."
Privately, some regulators have said the bill does not make major changes from what is already required under state and federal mining laws.
Jackson said that the Legislature decided not to try to tackle the mountaintop removal issues raised in a federal court lawsuit that charges the state has permitted dozens of mountaintop mines illegally. For example, the bill does not try to fix loopholes in state law that allow mountaintop removal mines without federally required post-mining development plans.
"Most people didn't want the Legislature to try to settle this lawsuit," Jackson said.