A mountaintop removal bill moving through the state Senate helps people who live near mining operations, but does little to protect streams and mountains from long-term damage, a sponsor of the bill said.
The Senate Energy, Industry and Mining Committee wrote and unanimously approved a bill that deals with blasting, community impacts, and future coalfield economic development.
The measure now goes to the Senate Finance Committee.
Among other things, the legislation makes it easier for residents to seek compensation when mining damages their property and requires the state Division of Environmental Protection to write a "community impact statement" on mountaintop removal proposals.
The bill does not address state regulatory problems that have allowed mountaintop removal mines to be permitted without required approximate original contour variances or postmining development plans.
Sen. Lloyd Jackson, D-Lincoln, told committee members that lawmakers will leave those and other environmental issues up to a federal judge.
"All that's in big-time litigation right now," said Jackson, who authored the bill along with Sen. Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall.
Chief U.S. District Judge Charles Haden II has blocked the largest mountaintop removal mine proposal in state history until March 15. Haden also scheduled a trial for later this year in a broader case challenging the DEP's permitting of mountaintop removal.
After the committee meeting, Jackson said the bill was modeled after recommendations he helped draw up for Gov. Cecil Underwood's mountaintop removal task force.
"I hope that it fully addresses the citizen outcry in terms of people directly impacted," Jackson said. "Clearly, there are people who disagree philosophically and on moral grounds with mountaintop removal, and this bill does not address their concerns."
Among the bill's provisions: