Glasser extolled the new homesteading post-mining land use as "a good chance for joint gain." Lovett warned that if DEP doesn't write and enforce homestead rules strictly, "it can just become another cheap post-mining land use."
Glasser said that, by following the new AOC policy, coal operators can satisfy federal regulators that valley fills are small enough. Lovett said that is not the case. "We think the valley fills could still be too big, and will still be too big, to comply with the Clean Water Act," Lovett said.
Glasser depicted the settlement as a near cure-all for mountaintop removal issues.
"There are better ways to do it for everyone," Glasser said. "Permitting will go much smoother, and people will object less to mountaintop removal."
Lovett was much less optimistic.
"DEP hasn't been following the law, and we don't trust them to follow the law in the future," he said. "DEP has been so lax for so long that operators got used to not following the law."
Sen. Sarah Minear, R-Tucker, complained that Haden wanted to retain jurisdiction over the case after the settlement, and that the settlement wouldn't prohibit citizens from going back to court if they aren't happy with the results.
"How long is this door going to remain open?" Minear asked. "Is there a statute of limitations or something? I don't think this is fair."
Lovett urged lawmakers not to think that the lawsuit settlement would end all complaints about mountaintop removal.
"It's not going to make everybody happy about mountaintop removal, and I don't think you should think it will."
Haden is accepting public comments on the proposed settlement through Sept. 30.
Copies of the settlement are available at federal courthouses in Charleston, Parkersburg, Huntington, Bluefield and Beckley. Documents are also available via the Internet at www.fedcourtwvsd.com. Written comments may be sent to Clerk, U.S. District Court, P.O. Box 3924, Charleston, WV 25339.
To contact staff writer Ken Ward Jr., call 348-1702, or e-mail kw...@wvgazette.com.