"The political climate in West Virginia is largely controlled by the coal industry, and has been for 100 years," Steenstra said. "Don't let politics interfere with the decisions you're making in this study."
Former Massey Coal executive Eugene Kitts said he thinks the EPA study is already unfair because the Highlands Conservancy is allowed to approve or disapprove consultants who will help prepare it.
"That makes this process neither fair, nor impartial, from the outset," said Kitts, who is now a private coal company consultant.
Most speakers focused on what they said was the negative result of any permit delays.
John Workman, an employee of Walker Machinery in Logan, said that additional EPA scrutiny has already hurt his county's economy.
"If the permits are held up, we're going to see a lot of people unemployed and laid off," Workman said.
Julian Martin, a retired teacher from Lincoln County, said he was saddened that coal companies have turned miners and environmentalists against each other.
"My question is how millionaires from St. Louis and California have managed to come in here and tell us they can only [mine coal] one way and divided us like they have," Martin said.