The Bush administration and the coal industry will have to wait another four months to argue their appeal of the latest federal court ruling to curb mountaintop removal coal mining.
Oral arguments before the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., have been delayed until late September.
Arguments had been set for May 13 in the appeal of two 2007 rulings by U.S. District Judge Robert C. Chambers.
Bill Raney, president of the West Virginia Coal Association, said it was too soon to say if the delay would cause problems for companies that have agreed to put off moving into new valley fills until the case is heard. But Raney said the industry is anxious to have the appeal decided.
"I think you perpetuate the uncertainty that I think everybody would like to get behind them," Raney said.
Coal industry lawyers and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are appealing the rulings, which required more thorough review by the corps of new mountaintop removal Clean Water Act permits.
On Wednesday evening, the 4th Circuit issued a one-paragraph order rescheduling the arguments until the court's next session Sept. 23-26. The order cited "reasons appearing to the court," and did not offer any further explanation.
Patricia Connor, clerk of the court, cited an unspecified "scheduling issue" as the reason for the change.
Connor said a three-judge panel for the case had already been chosen, and it is not clear if a new panel will be picked for the rescheduled argument.