Interior Secretary Gale Norton was snubbed today by seven West Virginia environmental groups, which declined an invitation to meet with her to discuss statewide mining issues. Norton initially offered to set aside a half-hour with the groups, coinciding with her visit to the state on the 25th anniversary of the Federal Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act. Prior to her appointment as Interior secretary, Norton opposed the act, arguing that it was unconstitutional for the federal government to regulate strip mining. The West Virginia citizens groups say that poor federal enforcement of the act is benefiting coal companies at the expense of human and environmental health. When the offer of a half-hour meeting was rebuked, the Interior Department proposed a two-hour slot, but the groups still declined, suggesting Norton schedule a trip when she had time to visit coalfield residents in their homes and see the damage caused by large mining operations.
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