Three former top state regulators, four legislators, a handful of business people and industry lobbyists, and one environmentalist will serve on a task force to examine mountaintop removal mining, Gov. Cecil Underwood said Friday.Underwood named 16 members to serve on the group that will be chaired by Marshall University President J. Wade Gilley.The list includes former top state regulators David Callaghan, Larry George and Ben Greene.Callaghan, who served two stints as chief of state environmental agencies in the Rockefeller and Caperton administrations, is now an industry consultant.George, a longtime top regulator, is now a private lawyer who represents coal companies.Greene, who served as chief mining regulator before the 1977 federal strip mine law was passed, is now president of the West Virginia Mining and Reclamation Association, one of two coal industry lobby groups.Others included Syd Peng, a West Virginia University professor who frequently testifies on behalf of coal companies in permit cases; Charles Jones, a Charleston businessman whose companies haul coal on river barges; and Mike Mace, who runs an environmental consulting firm in Madison.Underwood also appointed Mike Whitt of the Mingo County Redevelopment Authority in Williamson and Shelly Huffman of the Lincoln County Economic Development Office in West Hamlin.
In a prepared statement, the governor said, "Members of the task force bring a broad range of perspectives and expertise to this effort."I am confident that they will be diligent and comprehensive in their review of the information that is available on mountaintop mining practices."Underwood also appointed to the task force state Sen. Leonard Anderson, D-Summers; Sen. Lloyd Jackson, D-Lincoln; Delegate Steven Kominar, D-Mingo; and Delegate Greg Butcher, D-Logan. Butcher is a coal miner who works at a strip mine.Others include Betsy Dulin, an environmental engineer and lawyer who is also an associate dean at Marshall; retired WVU forestry professor Dave Samuel, who is also a member of the state Environmental Quality Board; and Fred Tucker, a United Mine Workers of America representative.The only environmental group representative appointed was John McFerrin, a lawyer who is president of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy and a Gazette contributing columnist.Underwood also urged members of the task force to join a three-day Division of Environmental Protection tour of mountaintop removal mines and reclamation projects starting on Monday."Once again, we must attempt to achieve some sense of balance in our approach to this issue," he said. "We must weigh a variety of factors, which include technical, environmental, qualify-of-life and economic issues."
The task force is to submit a report to the governor by Dec. 1.To contact staff writer Ken Ward Jr., call 348-1702.