Sen. Robert C. Byrd and other members of West Virginia's congressional delegation said Friday they would not help Arch Coal Inc. obtain the largest mountaintop removal permit in state history.
Byrd said the delegation would not try to stop the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from revoking a permit for Arch's 3,100-acre Dal-Tex mine expansion in Logan County.
Arch Coal has said it plans to lay off nearly 400 United Mine Workers on July 23 if it does not receive the permit.
Rep. Bob Wise, D-W.Va., urged Arch Coal CEO Steven Leer to consider mining approaches other than mountaintop removal to keep the mine going.
"To keep people working, could you not limit the size of the mine or change to a different type of mining operation?" Wise asked. "It seems to me that, although it might not be as profitable, such an approach would keep people working."
According to a news release from Byrd's office, Arch Coal Vice President Terry O'Connor responded to Wise by saying that, "We could use other equipment, but it would not be economically feasible ... [That choice] would be very imprudent from a business standpoint."
Byrd, D-W.Va., hosted a nearly three-hour meeting Friday morning with Gov. Cecil Underwood, UMW President Cecil Roberts, Leer and other UMW and Logan County officials.
Sen. Jay Rockefeller and Reps. Nick J. Rahall and Alan Mollohan, all D-W.Va., attended the meeting.
Supporters of the Arch Coal permit had asked for the meeting in the hopes that Byrd and other elected officials would lobby the corps or push for specific federal legislation to save the permit.