This is a reasonable proposal (especially since the law prohibits federal and state regulators from issuing permits unless they know water quality effects, and regulators have admitted that they don't).
"I think this kind of social action by the church is outside of its primary role," the governor said. He noted the decline of Methodist membership and suggested that church leaders should be more concerned about that.
But churches always have been involved in social issues, on many sides. Some crusaded against slavery, some defended it. Many participated in the historic civil rights drive that ended U.S. segregation. Catholics fought for social justice in South America. The war against abortion clinics today is chiefly a fundamentalist effort, as are attempts to ban sex movies and stripper clubs. Nobody can bar churches from public disputes.
In fact, Underwood himself called for more social activism by churches during his inaugural prayer service. "I view the churches' primary responsibility here and around the world as being in the attitude business," he said. "If they aren't, they ought to be."
Underwood spent much of his life working for the out-of-state corporations that own West Virginia's coalfields. Apparently, he is blind to any other point of view.
Mountaintop removal mines are colossal operations that dump millions of tons of rock and dirt into the valleys and streams of West Virginia. Blasting to loosen the "overburden" above the coal sends dust and rock into neighboring communities, making life miserable for the mostly poor residents who live there.
West Virginians need to know the long-term impact of all this. State and federal regulators have a legal duty to figure it out.
If Underwood is too loyal to coal to appoint a truly representative study committee, he shouldn't complain when his church calls for more research.