He and Jimmy Wedge, who says he called Maxey on an unrelated matter, say they suggested Maxey clarify his position if he believed Hechler had misrepresented it.
"I've never ordered anybody to do anything against his will and wouldn't," Page said.
Maxey would not have been fired for publicly opposing mountaintop removal, he said.
Neither he nor Wedge knew why it took Underwood so long to reappoint Maxey.
If he could not live with the Underwood administration's opinion on mountaintop removal, "Why did he take the job?" Wedge asked.
Maxey also says he was pressured by the state DEP and the federal OSM to approve a phrase Maxey says would justify leveling mountains. The agencies wanted the phrase to be included in specifications written by the Division of Forestry for voluntary reclamation of mines into woodlands.
The phrase, which is in 1997 state surface mining regulations, says flat or gently rolling land on a site reclaimed to woodland is "essential for the operation of mechanical harvesting equipment."
Maxey says the idea that timber can be cut only on flat land is ridiculous because loggers have used automated equipment on West Virginia's hills for decades.
John Ailes, chief of the DEP's Office of Mining and Reclamation, says someone in his office may have asked Maxey to include the phrase only to emphasize the existing law.
"We want to try to get more reforestation. That's important," Ailes says. "I don't understand where he's coming from at all."
Dennis Boyles, regulatory programs specialist at the OSM's Charleston office, denied his agency pressured Maxey.
Boyles says the phrase refers to an exception to the 1977 law that requires mountaintop removal mines to be reclaimed to their "approximate original contour."
Coal operators do not have to do that if they prove the site can be logged only with equipment that cannot be used on hills.
Maxey says few mines are reclaimed to their "approximate original contour."
Also, most mines strip topsoil and do not replace it, Maxey says. The soil that is returned is covered with lime and hydroseeded with grasses, which makes the ground too alkaline for trees.
"In other words, our valuable hardwood forest is lost for the next 150 to 200 years," Maxey says.
Coal companies also compact the soil. "Then you are trying to plant a tree in concrete. It doesn't work," Maxey says.
If coal companies returned the topsoil, including several feet of weathered sandstone that was not compacted or leveled, the land would immediately be ready for seedlings, Maxey says.
"If we can't get it stopped, this is the next best thing, a last resort. We need to stop mountaintop removal," Maxey says.