First, he appointed a study task force made up mostly of coal industry lobbyists, consultants, lawyers and supporters. Then he blasted members of his own church for a call to ban mountaintop removal mines until more is known about their long-term effects.
Underwood's task force is lopsided. Seven of the 16 members either work directly for the coal industry or do consulting, lobbying or legal work for coal. The panel includes Ben Greene, president of the West Virginia Mining and Reclamation Association, and Charles Jones, who owns coal-hauling barges. It includes a West Virginia University professor who often testifies for coal companies seeking permits.
Three of the four legislators appointed to the task force voted for the controversial "mitigation" bill making it easier for coal companies to fill valleys with "spoil" from cut-off mountaintops.
Only one environmental representative - John McFerrin, president of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy and a Gazette contributing columnist - was named to the task force.
Yet Underwood contends that the members "bring a broad range of perspective and expertise to this effort." What nonsense.
This task force is a transparent exercise that undoubtedly will reach predetermined conclusions about the "decapitation" method that is making West Virginia an international example of industrial ravages.
And Underwood surprisingly lashed out at his own church - United Methodism - after a group of Methodists proposed a resolution calling for a moratorium on mountaintop removal until studies can determine environmental effects (the resolution was later approved by the church's annual conference).