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Arch Coal wants mining permit despite injunction

With last month's court order suspending permits for its Logan County mountaintop removal mine, Arch Coal Inc. said Thursday it now wants a different kind of permit for the site.

Arch asked the federal judge who issued the order to clarify or modify his ruling, and allow Arch to apply for a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the Spruce Fork reserves of its Dal-Tex mountaintop removal mine.

The lawsuit which prompted the March 3 order had argued that Arch needed a permit, called an individual Section 404 permit.

"The decision to pursue an individual Section 404 permit is part of our continuing effort to expedite development of the Spruce Fork reserves," Arch CEO Steven F. Leer said.

"We view this step as prudent and necessary whether we are successful in the current litigation or not."

Arch also announced Thursday that it will withdraw its appeal of the order from U.S. District Judge Charles H. Haden II. The preliminary injunction will now remain in effect until a trial in the case now set for July.

Haden granted the injunction upon a request by Logan County residents and environmental groups, who filed a lawsuit targeting mountaintop removal mining.

Mountaintop removal blasts off hilltops. Earth-moving machines dig out valuable, low-sulfur coal reserves.

Leftover rock and earth is dumped into valleys, burying streams under waste piles called valley fills.

The individual Section 404 permit governs the valley fill phase of mountaintop removal mining. It is similar to another permit requested by Arch, called a nationwide Section 404 permit, but would require far greater review and scrutiny to be granted.

Filing the application would allow Arch to perform "preliminary work," company officials said, to prepare for any eventual assessment of the environmental impact at the site.

Arch spokesman David Todd said "preliminary work" would include testing groundwater, assessing local plant and wildlife and taking other steps to review the site's current condition.

Arch said it was withdrawing its appeal of Haden's ruling after its request for an early hearing was rejected. Any hearing of the appeal would not take place before the actual trial of the lawsuit, recently moved up to July 13 from Sept. 9.

To contact staff writer Lawrence Messina, call 348-4869.


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