We do know that the practice is a violation of the federal and state Clean Water Acts. Those laws prohibit degrading our streams; they require that existing uses of the streams be maintained. Mountaintop-removal mining dumps millions of tons of rocks and dirt into our streams. They can't do that and maintain existing uses of the streams.
As currently done, the practice is almost certainly illegal. Underwood is waiting for the task force to work.
We do know that the agency that is supposed to regulate mountaintop-removal mining is clueless. The DEP doesn't know how many mountaintop-removal mines there are. It doesn't know how many acres have been mined by this method. It isn't taking any steps to assure that the companies which promised a specific post-mining land use are actually achieving it.
Underwood is waiting for the task force to work.
Until now, Underwood had near universal support among the politicians in his do-nothing stance. In spite of his policy of sitting still while the tops of our mountains are blown off, none of the other politicians said anything. With the striking exception of Ken Hechler, everyone else sat on his hands while the destruction continued.
Finally we have a politician with the courage and the vision to say something. Wise has called for a moratorium on new permits for mountaintop-removal mining until the task force has finished its work and we have resolved the legal issues.
A moratorium might not be the dramatic step that some would favor. People frequently stop me on the street to say that the practice should end altogether. Compared to our do-nothing governor, however, Wise is a breath of fresh air.