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MINING CASE RULING NOT EXPECTED SOON

A federal judge won't rule in the latest mountaintop removal case until lawyers for both sides have filed more legal briefs and made more arguments in court.

Last week, U.S. District Judge Robert C. Chambers wrapped up trial in the case that challenges valley fill permits issued by the federal Army Corps of Engineers.

Chambers heard about 32 hours of testimony over six days, starting Oct. 3 and concluding Thursday.

Now, the judge has given lawyers for both sides time to file additional legal briefs based on the trial testimony.

Lawyers for environmental groups have until Nov. 3 to file their briefs. Lawyers for the corps and the coal industry have until Nov. 17 to respond.

Then, Chambers plans to schedule a hearing the week of Nov. 27 for oral arguments in the case, court records show.

In the case, the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition and two other groups argue that the corps should be forced to conduct lengthy "environmental impact statements" on Clean Water Act "individual permits" for each of four Massey Energy mine proposals.

Chambers will rule specifically about those four Massey permits. But, his decision could have a much broader impact on the state's coal industry.

The case is one of two mountaintop removal lawsuits pending in federal court in Southern West Virginia.

In the other, U.S. District Judge Joseph R. Goodwin is considering whether to block the corps from authorizing new valley fills through a streamlined Clean Water Act permit process.


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