Coal companies want a federal judge to tour a mountaintop removal strip mine before he rules on a lawsuit that contends the huge operations violate environmental laws.
Lawyers for three Arch Coal Inc. subsidiaries asked Chief U.S. District Judge Charles H. Haden II to schedule a trip to one of their mines, court records show.
Roger Wolfe, a Jackson & Kelly lawyer who represents the companies, told Haden that "a viewing by the Court of such operations at various stages of development should be especially useful to the Court's assessment of the issues in this case."
In mid-July, the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy and 10 coalfield residents filed a lawsuit that seeks to reign in mountaintop removal mining.
The suit alleges, among other things, that mine valley fills have been permitted to dump waste in streams in violation of the federal Clean Water Act. The suit also says mountaintop removal mines have been permitted without the required post-mining development plans for flattened land.
Named as defendants in the suit are Michael Miano, director of the state Division of Environmental Protection, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Haden allowed Arch Coal subsidiaries Hobet Mining Inc., Catenary Coal Co. and Mingo-Logan Coal Co., as well as the West Virginia Coal Association and the West Virginia Mining and Reclamation Association to intervene in the case.
In a motion filed Monday, Wolfe noted that the lawsuit says that a 3,100-acre mine Hobet Mining proposes near Blair in Logan County "would produce an ugly landscape," which would diminish property values and the quality of life.
"Plaintiffs have alleged that the operations of Arch Coal, particularly the use of valley fills, have destroyed significant portions of West Virginia's forests, streams and mountains," Wolfe wrote.