Lawyers for environmentalists and coalfield residents want a speedy hearing on a lawsuit which seeks to curb mountaintop removal coal mining.
Attorney Joe Lovett this week asked a federal judge to expedite depositions of officials from the Army Corps of Engineers.
Lovett also asked for an early hearing on a request that the judge rule that corps does not have legal authority to permit coal companies to dump mine waste into disposal piles called valley fills.
At the same time, lawyers for the state Division of Environmental Protection asked for more time to respond to the allegations in the suit.
Chief U.S. District Judge Charles Haden gave DEP an additional 40 days, until Sept. 16, to respond to the lawsuit. Originally, DEP would have been required to file its answer this week.
Russ Hunter, a lawyer for the DEP Office of Mining and Reclamation, said he needed more time to sort out issues raised by the suit.
"It's complex litigation," Hunter said Wednesday.
The lawsuit was filed in mid-July by the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy and a group of residents from Boone, Logan and Mingo counties. It alleges that mountaintop removal mines violate the Clean Water Act and the federal Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act.
Among the key allegations is one that the corps cannot permit valley fills under the "dredge and fill" provisions of the Clean Water Act.
In court papers filed Tuesday, Lovett alleged that corps officials in Huntington and Cincinnati have conceded they can't legally permit valley fills.