Then-DEP Director John Caffrey recommended the bill be vetoed, but Gov. Cecil Underwood signed it into law over Caffrey's objections.
One notice of intent to sue, filed with EPA last week, notes that federal regulators have said the bill violates the federal Clean Water Act and state water quality standards.
The five-page notice states that the bill sought to change state water quality standards to allow the fills. However, the notice alleged, state officials did not hold required public hearings and comment periods for such a change.
That notice, dated May 6, said that a lawsuit would be filed against EPA if the agency did not step in within 60 days.
The other notice, filed with DEP last week, states that the federal Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act requires state regulators to seek OSM approval whenever a change in the state's mining regulations is proposed.
Before such changes may be made, the notice said, OSM must approve them.
If OSM does not step in within 60 days and require the federal review, a lawsuit will be filed against the agency, the notice stated.
The Highlands Conservancy and the coalfield residents are represented in the cases by Joseph M. Lovett, staff attorney for Mountain State Justice, West Virginia University law professor Patrick C. McGinley, Morgantown lawyer Suzanne M. Weise, and James M. Hecker, a lawyer with the Washington-based group Trial Lawyers for Public Justice.
The group filed another notice of intent to sue DEP in mid-April. It challenges mountaintop removal strip mining, as permitted by the state DEP, as violating federal and state environmental laws.
Federal environmental laws require that potential plaintiffs file notices of intent to sue before filing lawsuits, so that agencies have a chance to fix any problems in their regulatory programs before being taken to court.