EPA said Hobet must look for ways to reduce or avoid the use of valley fills and to assure there is adequate mitigation for any loss of water resources.
The same week, Gov. Cecil Underwood directed the DEP to ignore a law he approved earlier in the year that relaxed the rules under which coal operators must compensate the state for such stream losses.
Underwood signed the bill last spring in spite of objections from the staff of the DEP and the EPA.
Bill Raney, president of the West Virginia Coal Association, said Hechler and other strip-mine opponents "are trying to build this issue up as much as they can."
"Things are substantially different than they were 25 years ago," before the federal government began to regulate strip mining, Raney said.
"There are a lot of allegations floating around out there, many of which are not factual," Raney said. "There have been some very real problems, and we have successful addressed those.
"The environment is much improved and operators are complying with lots more regulations," he said.