Some of these two groups were, on one hand, deeply concerned about the impact of the major mining operations on their children, their homes and their communities - and, at the same time, they were concerned about having to turn to food stamps to feed their families.
I was personally impressed by how many of the miners had worked 20 and 30 years in the industry to provide for their families - and to send their children to college. It reminded me many times of the basic purpose of institutions such as Marshall University and West Virginia's other public institutions of higher education.
This meeting marked only the beginning as the task force has organized itself into three committees - on the environment, the people and the economy of West Virginia - to do its work in a systematic and professional manner by the Dec. 1 deadline. The committees will travel to the coalfields for a firsthand view of mountaintop removal mining and will have additional public hearings.
State Sen. Lloyd Jackson, attorney and environmental engineer Betsy Dulin and attorney Larry George have agreed to chair the three committees. All are well qualified for these responsibilities.
Professional organizations and individuals on both sides - and there are clearly two sides - are being solicited for written comments, including white papers and technical reports, all of which will be part of the public record.
Further, all meetings of the task force will comply with state law regarding public access.
Finally, many on both sides of this issue believe they have the answer - and many on both sides believe there is no need for any study or discussion.
However, our charge from Gov. Underwood is to make a thorough, thoughtful and fair study. That is our goal.
After our report is delivered - and we know that there will not be unanimous approval, whatever the report says - the political and legal communities will have ample opportunity to work their will.
Dr. Gilley, president of Marshall University, is chairman of the Governor's Task Force on Mountaintop Removal and Related Mining Practices.