On June 24, the corps withdrew its proposed approval of the permit. The agency said its lawyers had become convinced they couldn't successfully defend the permit against challenges from environmental groups.
Arch Coal filed a cross-claim lawsuit that alleges the corps' action violated its own regulations and the company's constitutional rights.
Last week, Arch Coal's law yers asked to depose Charles K. Stark, chief of program management and implementation at the corps' regulatory branch.
Haden held a telephone hearing Tuesday morning, then filed a written order that granted corps lawyer Steven Rusak's motion to stop the deposition.
Also Tuesday, the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy and other plaintiffs filed a motion supporting the corps' efforts to withdraw permit approval.
Joe Lovett, lead lawyer for the group, argued that the Dal-Tex expansion should have to be authorized through a more rigorous, individual permit.
"Hobet has sought for over a year to use political and economic pressure to exempt its Spruce mine from federal environmental laws," Lovett wrote.
"Now, the corps has frankly acknowledged that such an exemption is legally indefensible and would violate the public interest," he wrote.
"Hobet's response demonstrates ... corporate arrogance and a stubborn refusal to play by the same rules that apply to everyone else."
To contact staff writer Ken Ward Jr., call 348-1702, or e-mail kw...@wvgazette.com.