Coal operators can resolve one issue related to mountaintop-removal mining by planning ways to develop sites after mining is completed, Rep. Bob Wise said.
Federal law exempts mountaintop-removal mines from reclaiming the land to its original contour if plans are drawn up for "a higher and better use" for the site, Wise, D-W.Va., said Saturday.
"Too many permits are relying on forestry and wildlife habitat as a final use," he said. "And when operators prepare their permit applications, too many are just going through the motions.
"We've got enough fish and wildlife habitat in this state," he said. "We don't need any more."
Wise's suggestions will be included in written comments to Gov. Cecil Underwood's task force on mountaintop removal. The task force is taking public comment through Tuesday. The panel is scheduled to meet on Dec. 2 to decide on final recommendations.
In comments prepared for the task force, Wise proposed a three-stage approach to resolve disputes over mountaintop removal:
1. Create a planning council that will develop "maximum economic opportunities" from future mountaintop-removal sites;
2. Continue to study valley fill issues and other environmental effects associated with mountaintop removal and include the results in the process used to review permit applications; in addition, Underwood should submit legislation to correct environmental weaknesses in the state's new mining regulations;