Environmentalists told a federal judge on Tuesday that they oppose scheduling an earlier trial date in a case over the largest mountaintop removal permit in West Virginia history.
Lawyers for the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy and other citizens asked Chief U.S. District Judge Charles Haden to deny a request from Arch Coal Inc. to move the trial date up from early September.
On March 3, Haden issued a preliminary injunction that halted permits for the 3,100-acre Spruce Fork operation that Arch Coal subsidiary Hobet Mining wants to put on Pigeonroost Branch in Logan County.
The injunction means Hobet Mining cannot expand its Dal-Tex mining operation into Pigeonroost Branch until Haden makes a final ruling in the case following a September trial.
Hobet Mining has told the nearly 400 miners at Dal-Tex that most of them will be laid off by August because of the injunction.
Lawyers for Arch Coal asked Haden to separate the Pigeonroost Branch permit case from a larger case that accuses the state Division of Environmental Protection of a "pattern and practice" of issuing improper mountaintop removal permits.
On Friday, Hobet Mining lawyer Roger Wolfe asked the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals to expedite an appeal of Haden's preliminary injunction.
Wolfe told the court that, "Until Hobet's appeal can be decided, Hobet will continue to suffer enormous financial losses and will be forced to proceed with the phased shutdown of operations and layoffs of employees."