(By Delegates Butcher, Anderson, Armstead, Ashley, Azinger, Beane, Boggs, Border, Calvert, Cann, Capito, Caputo, Coleman, Dalton, Dempsey, Evans, Faircloth, Ferrell, Flanigan, Fletcher, Frederick, Givens, Hall, Harrison, Hatfield, Hines, Hunt, Hutchins, Jenkins, Kominar, Kuhn, Laird, Leggett, Linch, Louisos, Manchin, Manuel, Mattaliano, McGraw, Michael, Modesitt, Paxton, Pethtel, Pettit, Pino, Proudfoot, Prunty, Riggs, Romine, Ross, Rowe, Schadler, Shelton, Smirl, J. Smith, L. Smith, Sparks, Stalnaker, Stemple, Susman, Thompson, Tucker, Varner, Warner, Webb, H. White, L. White, Williams, Willis, Willison, Wills, Yeager)

Urging the West Virginia congressional delegation to take immediate legislative action to amend existing surface mining laws to reverse the effect of the decision in Bragg, et al. V. Robertson, et al. on West Virginia mines and miners.

Whereas, West Virginia Legislature tirelessly seeks to improve the quality of life for the citizens of the mountain state; and
Whereas, Coal mining has been, and continues to be, one of the primary industries responsible for the economic success of West Virginia and its citizens; and
Whereas, Thousands of West Virginians are employed, either directly or indirectly, by the coal industry, which generates payrolls totaling over two billion dollars annually; and
Whereas, Coal mining, including the practice of mountaintop mining, currently accounts for the payment of millions of dollars in severance taxes, tens of millions of dollars in income taxes and millions of dollars in other related taxes paid to the State of West Virginia; and
Whereas, County governments and county school systems throughout the State rely on the taxes from coal companies and coal miners to fund many valuable programs, including public education, ambulance services and law enforcement; and
Whereas, Coal severance tax dollars generated from mountaintop mines in southern West Virginia provide a source of revenue and economic activity to support important government programs throughout all of the fifty-five counties of the State; and
Whereas, An October 20, 1999, decision issued from the United States District Court for the southern district of West Virginia in the case of Bragg, et al. v. Robertson, et al., concerning stream "buffer zones" and "valley fills," has threatened the continued and economical operation of surface and underground coal mines in the state and thus, thousands of coal mining jobs and mine-related contractor jobs; and
Whereas, The October 20, 1999, decision has effectively rendered millions of tons of valuable coal reserves unmineable and has adversely impacted investment decisions related to the future of West Virginia and future coal mining operations; and
Whereas, The December 23, 1998, settlement agreement executed by the parties to the Bragg case placed additional controls and oversight on the mine permitting process in the state and further authorized the United States Environmental Protection Agency (the EPA) to undertake a two-year environmental impact assessment of the effects of large scale mountaintop mining practices, which is currently underway and which will result in an environmental impact statement (the EIS) relating to the ecological effects of the placement of valley fills in streams incident to the surface mining process; and
Whereas, The State of West Virginia, through its legislatively authorized interim surface mining council is participating with EPA and other agencies in the conduct of the EIS and has committed funding and other resources toward that end; and
Whereas, The State of West Virginia, through the interim surface mining council, remains optimistic that the information compiled in the EIS during this two-year period may substantiate the effectiveness and adequacy of the existing level of environmental regulations and controls on the coal industry, which are enforced under the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act, the Clean Water Act, etc; therefore, the State of West Virginia, remains optimistic that, because of the information collected during this two-year period, the EIS may also be used to amend existing policies or serve as the basis for new requirements to be imposed on the coal industry; and
Whereas, The 1999 Legislature enacted comprehensive legislation (Senate Bill No. 681) establishing a level of unprecedented statutory provisions expanding the protections under state law for coalfield residents and others who reside in close proximity to active mining operations; and
Whereas, West Virginia's regulatory program is comprised of a wide range of unprecedented, substantive requirements that have no parallel in any other state and which far exceed federal mining rules and regulations, and thus contribute to greater restrictions and greater environmental protections; therefore, be it
Resolved by the Legislature of West Virginia:
That the Legislature of West Virginia urges the congressional delegation of West Virginia to pursue immediate, expeditious and thorough congressional action to amend affected provisions of the federal mining law in order to effectively reverse the October 20, 1999, decision and restore the stability and fairness which the mining industry enjoyed in West Virginia prior to October 20, 1999; and, be it
Further Resolved, That the Clerk of the House is hereby directed to forward a copy of this resolution to the President and Vice President of the United States, to the Governor of the State of West Virginia, to each member of the United States Congress and to the directors of each of the federal and state agencies that regulate the West Virginia coal mining industry.