Mountaintop removal critics have sued the U.S. Office of Surface Mining, arguing that the agency has implemented new mining rules without required public input.
The West Virginia Highlands Conservancy and other citizens argue that OSM is trying to derail their separate federal court lawsuit to curb mountaintop removal.
Lawyers for the Conservancy and seven individuals sued Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, who oversees OSM, in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
The suit, filed June 4, focuses on OSM's public statement that federal stream buffer zone rules do not apply to mountaintop removal valley fills.
Mountaintop removal blasts off entire hilltops to uncover coal reserves. Leftover rock and earth is dumped into huge waste piles called valley fills, which bury streams.
In July 1998, the Conservancy and others sued in U.S. District Court in Charleston to try to curb mountaintop removal.
Among other things, the suit alleged that the state Division of Environmental Protection issues permits that do not require companies to comply with the 100-foot stream buffer zone rule.
Lawyers for DEP and the coal industry argue that the buffer zone rules do not apply to valley fills.