U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd and Rep. Nick J. Rahall, both D-W.Va., on Tuesday blasted the federal Office of Surface Mining's new report on mountaintop-removal coal mining.
Byrd said the report "is disappointing in that it does little to address the core issues of concern, instead putting off a resolution of the central questions to a later date."
Rahall said that with the report, released Tuesday, the OSM "abrogated its responsibility."
"It pains me to say this, but once again, OSM has shown that it has no backbone to aggressively fulfill its statutory mandate to coalfield citizens," said Rahall, who served on the House-Senate conference committee that created the OSM in the 1977 Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act.
The OSM on Tuesday morning formally released the results of a nine-month examination of the state's regulation of mountaintop-removal surface mines.
The report, with full-color photos and charts, outlined a long list of problems with the way these huge mines are permitted by the state Division of Environmental Protection.
The report, however, suggested no concrete ways to fix the problems.
Instead, the OSM started a monthlong public-comment period to hear suggestions on how to correct regulatory oversights outlined in the report.
"The actual resolution of some of the issues the report raises may have implications beyond the boundaries of West Virginia," said OSM Director Kathy Karpan. "That's why I have decided to circulate the draft report for review and comment to interested parties both within West Virginia and beyond."
OSM officials had little reaction to the criticism from Byrd and Rahall.
"I haven't seen their statements," said OSM regional director Al Klein. "But we respect the congressman's and the senator's opinions.
"We have long-standing relationships with them and look forward to working with them on any issues they have with the report."
DEP Director Michael Miano praised the OSM report.
In a prepared statement, Miano said the report vindicated his agency, which has been widely criticized - and sued in federal court - for allegedly authorizing illegal mountaintop-removal mines.