"We need ... to make sure that what we want to do we can do and they won't object to it," Glasser said.
Parts of the settlement involve changes in state regulations that will require legislative approval, perhaps in a special session.
DEP lawyers still maintain that another rule, creating a 100-foot buffer zone along streams, does not apply to mountaintop removal's huge valley fills.
Environmental groups insist that it does, and are not willing to give in on the issue, either. Haden will eventually have to settle that dispute, the lawyers say.
Dropped from the case Friday was Arch Coal Inc.'s fight to get the largest mountaintop removal mine in state history authorized under a blanket, general permit.
After months of fighting the idea, Arch Coal agreed to seek an individual permit to expand its Dal-Tex mine in Logan County. Individual permits require much more scrutiny, including detailed environmental studies.
The plaintiffs said the mine could only be permitted under an individual permit. Arch Coal had wanted an early trial to decide that issue.
"Despite our disappointment in failing to obtain the Dal-Tex permit, we have made encouraging progress in some of the broader, programmatic issues before the court," said Arch Coal CEO Steven Leer. Leer said the company supported postponing the trial "to give these complex negotiations the chance to succeed."
Cindy Rank, mining chairwoman of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, said citizens will have to keep a close watch on regulators even if a settlement is reached.
"A memo is only as good as the paper it's written on," Rank said late Friday. "The Surface Mining Act sounds good on paper, but it is still being enforced poorly.
"Whatever is written on a piece of paper or agreed to in a settlement is going to have to be followed very closely."
To contact staff writer Ken Ward Jr., call 348-1702 or e-mail kw...@wvgazette.com.