On Tuesday, Steven Rusak, a Justice Department lawyer representing the corps, sent a sealed letter to Haden stating that the agency may have erred in proposing the blanket permit.
In the letter, which Haden unsealed on Thursday, Rusak said that "a Corps decision-maker had not considered all relevant documents in the administrative record as a basis for concluding that a nationwide permit would be appropriate for the Spruce No. 1 Mine."
Rusak also said that the corps was "concerned about the accuracy of an Environmental Protection Agency document in the administrative record."
Rusak had filed a public court motion that asked Haden to delay several procedural maneuvers in the case because he had discovered "new material facts" that could affect the suit's outcome.
Among the maneuvers Rusak wanted to delay was a decision on whether environmental group lawyers could question corps officials about agency discussions about the Arch permit with members of West Virginia's congressional delegation.
Officials at the district corps office in Huntington said they did not know what documents or "new material facts" Rusak was talking about.
Brent Smith, the acting district engineer for the corps, declined to comment.
"We were given that letter by headquarters, the language of that letter, and we agreed with that, and that's why Mr. Smith sent the letter," said Steve Wright, a corps spokesman in Huntington.
"We do not know what [Rusak] is talking about."
On Friday, Rusak filed a motion joining in the environmentalists' effort to have the corps dismissed from the lawsuit.
If Haden approves that motion, the July 13 trial would focus only on other allegations that the state Division of Environmental Protection has approved dozens of mountaintop removal permits that don't comply with federal and state law.
The West Virginia Highlands Conservancy and a group of coalfield residents want Haden to order DEP to not issue permits that violate the law.
Also Friday, DEP lawyer Ben Bailey told Haden he may have a scheduling conflict on the July 13 trial date.
Bailey said he has a civil trial scheduled in Marshall Circuit Court, but that he had asked the judge there to postpone that trial.
To contact staff writer Ken Ward Jr., call 348-1702 or e-mail kw...@wvgazette.com.