"I continue to be surprised that the governor places those so high on his agenda," Flannery said. "The governor is, I think, rightly concerned about what the federal government has done on those two issues."
Cindy Rank, mining chairwoman for the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, said she was shocked that Underwood did not mention mountaintop removal mining at all in his speech.
"It's truly unbelievable," Rank said. "I really thought he would say 'there have been a lot of concerns and we're taking care of it.'"
A task force appointed by Underwood recommended a series of regulatory changes to curb mountaintop removal's impacts on nearby communities, and proposed the repeal of last year's controversial mining mitigation bill. The governor has not publicly supported any of the task force proposals.
"It's amazing that he continues to ignore the problems we are causing to our people and the environment," Rank said.
In other environmental matters, the governor did not include in his proposed budget for the next financial year any increases in funding for the state DEP.
DEP officials had requested $12.3 million in new general revenue money, most of which would have been used to beef up the Office of Water Resources. A coalition of environmental and industry groups asked the governor to approve $4.9 million in new general revenue money, along with $739,000 in increased industry fees, to fund water office improvements alone.
In his speech, Underwood singled out a Westvaco contract with The Nature Conservancy to conduct an environmental audit of the company's 350,000 acres of forest in the state. The study will identify environmentally sensitive sites, including habitats for endangered species.
"This model of cooperation leads to decisions built on common ground and avoids divisive, nonproductive confrontation," Underwood said.
The governor contrasted it to other, unspecified environmental issues, where he said, "groups representing the extreme positions have largely shaped the environmental management and debate of our time."
"I certainly do not propose to ignore environmental quality," Underwood said. "I do insist that we look beyond present-day rhetoric and narrow thinking to cast a new century model.
"Government needs to establish a balance between costs and benefits in the exercise of its environmental stewardship," the governor said.