"We believe that coal companies should be held to a high standard of environmental protection and that the state and federal officials entrusted with that enforcement have on many occasions not sufficiently protected our communities," he said.
Roberts said that the UMW supports a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposal for an environmental impact study of mountaintop removal.
Such a move, proposed to the task force by EPA, would allow new permits to continue to be issued while regulators study mountaintop removal's effects.
Roberts, considered one of the nation's more liberal labor leaders, said that he also supports legislative action to make it easier for coalfield residents to force coal companies to pay for blasting damage to homes and water supplies.
The union suggested that coal companies should be made legally liable for any damage that occurs within one mile of their operations.
"The UMWA strongly believes that coal companies should not be permitted to destroy local communities in the process of mountaintop removal mining, including by blasting," Roberts said.
Roberts also spoke to the controversy over whether mountaintop removal mines in the state have been improperly permitted without post-mining land development plans. He noted that the law does not allow mountaintop removal mines to be reclaimed as "fish a nd wildlife habitat and recreation lands," the most popular post-mining land use.
"We believe that federal law should be strictly enforced and that post-mining development in approximate original contour variances should include higher uses than the present use such as real economic development plans, and specifically should not inc lude simply 'fish and wildlife habitat and recreation lands'."
Roberts said the UMW also supports the repeal of legislation, signed by Underwood over widespread opposition, that makes it cheaper for coal companies to dump strip mine waste in valley fills.
Roberts said the union believes that "the overwhelming majority of mountains in the state of West Virginia are unsuitable for mountaintop removal mining techniques.
"We also believe that the mining sites throughout West Virginia with historical significance, such as the historic portions of Blair Mountain and the Stanley family farm on Kayford Mountain, must be preserved and thus should be off-limits for mining."