Citing new information that could affect the case's outcome, lawyers for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers late Tuesday asked a judge to delay action on several procedural maneuvers in a lawsuit over mountaintop removal.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Rusak asked Chief U.S. District Judge Charles Haden II to not rule on motions concerning depositions of Corps officials by lawyers for environmentalists.
Rusak also asked that Haden not rule on the Corps' motion to break the trial into separate segments, and deal with allegations against the state Division of Environmental Protection before those against the Corps.
The delay motion does not appear to be related to negotiations toward a potential settlement of parts of the suit.
In court papers, Rusak told Haden that "new material facts ... which could affect the outcome of this litigation" had been discovered concerning the Corps' processing of a Clean Water Act permit for Arch Coal Inc.'s Spruce No. 1 Mine in Logan County.
"As a result, an immediate further inquiry by counsel is necessary before the United States can make representations to the Court regarding the proposed [Clean Water Act] authorization," Rusak wrote.
Rusak, reached by phone at his office in Washington, D.C., declined to elaborate.
In July 1998, the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy and a group of coalfield residents sued the Corps and DEP. They allege both agencies ignore environmental laws in permitting mountaintop removal mines.
Haden has scheduled trial to start July 13.