"With respect to various allegations and news reports about mountaintop mining, the committee finds no evidence that the permitting process has resulted in issuance of 'illegal' mining permits," the committee report said.
"Mined lands generally are being returned to AOC, or have obtained variances ... currently allowed and defined by federal and state law," it said. "In addition, each individual permit which has been issued for mountaintop mining has been subjected to extensive public scrutiny in the public participation process; including advertising, public comment, and public hearings. Protests with respect to AOC requirements or variances could have been voiced at that time."
The committee did concede that OSM is completing a study of AOC issues. It said, "further consideration of AOC and the adequacy of land use decisions may need to continue after the release of the OSM report."
The OSM report is now three months overdue. It was scheduled to be released in mid-August.
The task force economic committee disagreed with the environmental group.
Its draft report found that mountaintop removal mines are supposed to receive AOC variances, which means they must come up with post-mining development plans.
"Mountaintop removal and the associated valley fills were considered exceptions to the AOC requirement which the state regulatory agency could authorize in specific circumstances," the economic committee report said.
The economic committee also said that regulatory agencies need to pay more attention to AOC and post-mining land uses when they approve permits.
"A fair reading of SMCRA and its historical compromise between mining and the conservation of the natural landscape requires a much more attenuated exception for mountaintop removal mining than has been recent practice in West Virginia," it said.