"Once introduced, such a bill would have been subject to public scrutiny and public input during the entire legislative process, including committee meetings and floor debates," it said. "Rather than an act of sinister intent, as the Gazette advocates suggest, the proposed formation of this group was designed to draft a bill expeditiously to bring about that public debate sooner rather than later.
"While the leaders are confident that state law supports their position, they determined that wasting valuable time and money defending a baseless lawsuit would have been counterproductive toward their goal of developing a responsible and reasonable approach to dealing with a very complicated and technical bill."
Norm Steenstra, chief lobbyist for the West Virginia Environmental Council, said, "We didn't expect anything to come out of this committee anyway, but what's really comical is how they're mismanaging this."
Steenstra said the environmental community would introduce its own mountaintop removal bill next week.
"There absolutely has been no leadership on this issue," Steenstra said. "There has been a lot of fluff and public relations on it, but no one has taken the lead on solving the problems mountaintop removal is creating. Citizens and individual legislators have to take the lead."
In a related matter, the state Division of Environmental Protection announced the dates of three public hearings on a federal government environmental impact study of mountaintop removal.
The hearings will be held Feb. 23 in Summersville, Feb. 24 in Charleston and Feb. 25 in Logan, said DEP Director Michael Miano.
The two-year study is mandated by a partial settlement of a federal court lawsuit aimed at curbing mountaintop removal mining.