State regulators have been permitting mountaintop removal mines for more than 20 years, lawyers for the state Division of Environmental Protection argued Tuesday.
DEP lawyers told U.S. District Judge Charles H. Haden II that they think he should deny a motion for summary judgment filed by lawyers for the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy.
In summary judgment motions, lawyers ask judges to rule only on their interpretation of the law, when there are no material facts in dispute.
The Conservancy wants Haden to issue a summary judgment ruling in its favor on two key issues in the case: whether valley fills violate stream buffer zone rules and whether the approximate original contour requirements apply to valley fills.
Ben Bailey and Brian Glasser, private lawyers hired to represent DEP in the case, filed a 22-page brief Tuesday that said the environmental group's position "would bring mining in West Virginia to a grinding halt."
On the two issues, Bailey and Glasser said:
There is no way that valley fills can be reclaimed to their approximate original contour, or AOC.
"On the most basic level, one who fills in a hole necessarily changes its original contours," they said. "The same is true for valleys."
The plaintiffs' argument, they said, relies solely on definitions of mining terms.
"It ignores half a dozen state and federal statutes and regulations which tell [DEP] Director [Michael] Miano how to apply the definitions, and tell him that AOC does not apply to valley fills," they said.