(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 mining rules and regulations to reverse the effect of the decision in Bragg, et al. v. Robertson, et al. on West Virginia mines and miners.

Whereas, The 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 provides a source of revenue and economic activity to support important government programs throughout all of the State's fifty-five counties; 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 State surface and underground coal mines and thus, thousands of coal mining jobs and mine related contractor jobs; and
Whereas, The October 20, 1999, decision has effectively sterilized millions of tons of valuable coal reserves 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 places additional controls and oversight on the States' mine permitting process and further authorized the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to undertake a two-year environmental impact assessment (EIS) of the effects of large scale mountaintop mining practices which is currently underway; 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 its legislatively authorized "Interim Surface Mining Council," remains optimistic that the information collected during this two-year period the EIS 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, et al., and the State of West Virginia, through the "Interim Surface Mining Council," and it remains optimistic that, because of the information collected during this two-year period, 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 (SB68) 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 far exceed federal mining rules and regulations, thus contributing to greater restrictions and environmental protections; therefore, be it
Resolved by the Legislature of West Virginia:
That the Legislature of West Virginia urges West Virginia's congressional delegation to pursue immediate, expeditious and effective congressional action to amend affected provisions of the federal mining law in order to effectively reverse the October 20, 1999, decision and restore stability and fairness to West Virginia's mining industry as it was 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, the Governor of the State of West Virginia, members of the West Virginia delegation to the United States Congress and to the directors of each of the federal and State agencies that regulate the West Virginia coal mining industry.