"Where he said the economic impact was ëtemporary,' that's the part we have the biggest problem with," Hardesty said.
In his 47-page ruling, Haden described economic harms to Arch Coal, its employees and the Logan area as "purely temporary economic harms" compared to what he called "permanent and irreversible harms" if mining were allowed to start before the overall case is resolved.
Haden noted testimony from Arch Coal experts that the total economic losses from the withholding of the permit through September is more than $20 million.
"This number included lost compensation to production and supervisory employees, lost compensation to contractors for services, lost income to vendors, and lost income to mineral right owners," Haden wrote. "Projected lost tax revenue to West Virginia was calculated at over one and a half million dollars during the delay period."
The judge wrote, however, that the state Division of Environmental Protection appears to be violating the federal approximate original contour reclamation rule, and that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has not performed a required environmental impact study of the Dal-Tex permit proposal.
"It is apparent that, in the face of such serious and complex legal questions presenting imminent and irreversible environmental harm, the public interest favors presentation of the status quo until the Court is able to rule finally on the merits at trial," Haden wrote.
"Destruction of the unique topography of southern West Virginia, and of Pigeonroost Hollow in particular, cannot be regarded as anything but permanent and irreversible."
Kirkendoll and Hardesty said they have read Haden's ruling, but haven't asked Arch Coal officials why the company can't fix the problems Haden cited in the Dal-Tex permit.
The pair also said the controversy over mountaintop removal is making coal companies put more effort into trying to plan post-mining developments on mining sites. The Gazette's coverage, and the environmental group lawsuit before Haden, included allegations that most mountaintop removal permits did not contain post-mining development plans required by federal law.
"We're not saying they're perfect," Hardesty said of the coal companies. "They kind of skirted that before, and this is helping to bring change."
Kirkendoll added, "I think the coal companies have finally said they will sit down and talk with the public."
Gazette Editor James A. Haught said, "The state regulators have been violating federal law for years by not requiring beneficial development on mountaintop removal sites. Why should everyone be angry at the Gazette for pointing out a violation of the law?"