Big land holding companies want their say in a federal court lawsuit that seeks to curb mountaintop removal strip mining, court records showed Friday.
Western Pocahontas Properties Limited Partnership and the National Council of Coal Lessors Inc. filed a motion to intervene in the suit being heard by Chief U.S. District Judge Charles H. Haden II.
Robert D. Pollitt, a lawyer with the firm Steptoe & Johnson, filed the motion Friday morning on behalf of Western Pocahontas and the council.
Pollitt alleged that any further restrictions on mountaintop removal or valley fills "will result in a regulatory taking" of coal property owned by his clients.
A regulatory taking is a government action that restricts a private person or company's use of property. Property rights advocates argue the government should have to pay citizens for the loss of use of their property when a taking occurs.
"As owners and lessors of mineral rights, including coal seams that may be mined by mountaintop removal methods utilizing valley fills, intervenors have significant monetary resources at stake in this action," Pollitt wrote in his motion.
"Restrictions on permissible mining techniques directly affect decisions by mining companies to mine particular tracts of land," he wrote.
"Consequently, landowners and holders of mineral rights, such as intervenors, would be adversely affected by any decision of this Court that results in a reduction in the volume of mining engaged in their respective leases."
In mid-July, the West Virginia Highland Conservancy filed a lengthy lawsuit that alleges mountaintop removal mines in the state have been permitted illegally.