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Coal industry groups want in mining lawsuit

Two coal industry lobbying groups want their say in a federal court lawsuit that aims to curb mountaintop removal strip mining.

Lawyers for the West Virginia Coal Association and the West Virginia Mining and Reclamation Association have filed a motion to intervene in the lawsuit.

The motion was filed Aug. 19 on the groups' behalf by lawyers W. Warren Upton and M. Shane Harvey of the Charleston firm Jackson & Kelly.

Upton and Harvey argue that the associations "have extensive expertise and experience in the issues that underlie this cause of action and are ideally suited to contribute to a just determination."

"As associations composed of members of the regulated industry, the associations have a direct and substantial interest in the issues of fact and law raised in this action," they argue in their motion. "As a practical matter, the disposition of those issues may impair or impede the ability of the associations' members to protect that interest."

In mid-July, the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy and 10 coalfield residents filed suit in U.S. District Court in Charleston. They allege that mountaintop removal mines have been permitted in violation of the federal Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act and the federal Clean Water Act.

Among other allegations, the suit charges the state Division of Environmental Protection has permitted mountaintop removal mines that don't promise the required post-mining development of flattened land.

The suit also alleges that DEP and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers illegally permitted mountaintop removal mines to fill in streams with valley fill waste piles.

Previously, three Arch Coal Inc. subsidiaries filed a joint motion to intervene in the lawsuit before Chief U.S. District Judge Charles Haden.

Earlier this week, environmental group lawyer Joe Lovett filed a motion that did not oppose the coal companies' intervening in the case, but said that the lobby groups should not be allowed to participate.

In his motion, Lovett noted that the coal companies and the trade associations are all represented by Jackson & Kelly lawyers.

"There is no need to add more interveners who have the same economic and legal interests," Lovett wrote. "The coal companies and the coal associations share the same economic interest in extracting coal.

"They also have the same legal interests in protecting their property rights to that coal," he wrote. "They are even represented by the same law firm.

"In addition, multiple interventions would allow the coal industry to (1) file multiple briefs and thereby unfairly enlarge the number of pages they can use to oppose plaintiffs' motions and (2) take multiple depositions of plaintiffs', experts and other witnesses and thereby require plaintiffs to incur excessive time and expense for discovery," he wrote.

To contact staff writer Ken Ward Jr., call 348-1702.


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