A mountaintop removal bill being pushed by legislative leaders won't fix widespread problems associated with large-scale mining, environmentalists say.
Sen. Lloyd Jackson, D-Lincoln, moved the leadership bill out of a Senate committee on Monday, with the hope that it would gain support from industry and citizen groups.
Coal industry lobbyists complained that the measure would create additional bureaucratic hurdles for mine permitting.
The West Virginia Environmental Council stuck to backing its own mountaintop removal legislation. Council leaders say other bills do little to address the issue.
"According to the polls, 70 percent of West Virginians want the Legislature to do something about mountaintop removal," said Norm Steenstra, lead lobbyist for the environmental council.
The environmental group's bill would tighten restrictions on post-mining land uses, so that mountaintop removal coal operators would have to provide economic or community development after mining is finished.
Under federal law, mountaintop removal mines can be exempted from the approximate original contour reclamation requirement only if they propose land use improvements - such as industry development, schools or public parks - that require flattened land.
State Division of Environmental Protection records, however, show that DEP officials rarely enforce those requirements.
The environmental group's bill would fix weaknesses in state mining laws that a U.S. Office of Surface Mining oversight report concluded lead to many of the mountaintop removal permitting violations.
Parts of the environmental group bill also mirror proposals made by Gov. Cecil Underwood's task force on montaintop removal.