The Underwood administration has hired an outside law firm to defend the agency against a federal court lawsuit filed by environmentalists who want to curb mountaintop removal mining.
State Division of Environmental Protection Director Michael Miano hired the new firm Bailey and Glasser to represent the agency in the case pending before Chief U.S. District Judge Charles Haden II.
Attorney General Darrell McGraw approved the move on Friday when he appointed lawyers Ben Bailey and Brian Glasser as special assistant attorneys general.
Bailey will be paid $195 per hour and Glasser $150 per hour, said DEP spokesman Andy Gallagher.
Bill Adams, DEP's chief in-house lawyer, said Bailey and Glasser were hired because, "As Judge Haden's preliminary rulings in this matter indicate, more resources are needed to responsibly educate the federal judiciary so that a just and fair result may be achieved."
On March 3, Haden issued a preliminary injunction that blocked permits for Arch Coal Inc. to expand its Dal-Tex mountaintop removal mine in Logan County.
In July 1998, the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy and other environmentalists filed a suit that accused the DEP of a "pattern and practice" of approving mountaintop removal permits that violate federal mining and water polllution laws.
Federal regulators settled part of that suit. They agreed to put most mountaintop removal permits through additional scrutiny, but exempted the Dal-Tex expansion from that requirement.