Environmental groups and coalfield residents are demanding that federal regulators review a new state law making it easier for strip mines to bury streams under valley fill waste piles.
The West Virginia Highlands Conservancy and 10 citizens filed formal notices of intent to sue if federal agencies do not revisit the state's new mine "mitigation" policy.
Federal regulators have complained publicly about the policy. The notices could force federal agencies to back up their statements with formal action.
Notices were filed late last week with W. Michael McCabe, regional director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and Michael Miano, director of the state Division of Environmental Protection.
The notices, among other things, claim that the state DEP must receive approval from the U.S. Office of Surface Mining before the new policy is implemented.
They also claim the new policy amounts to a change in state water quality standards, something EPA must approve before it can take effect.
State officials require coal companies to compensate the state with monetary payments or in-kind projects - such as ponds or lakes - when they fill in streams with strip mine waste.
Some in the coal industry, along with House Speaker Bob Kiss, D-Raleigh, pushed this year to weaken the state's so-called mitigation policy.
The bill increased the size of streams coal operators can bury under valley fills without compensating the state from 250 drainage acres to 480 drainage acres.