The largest mountaintop removal coal mine in state history will receive final approval from federal regulators next week, setting the next stage in a court battle over the project.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials said Friday they will issue a "dredge and fill" Clean Water Act permit for Arch Coal Inc.'s Spruce No. 1 Mine.
Michael Gheen, regulatory chief for the Corps district office in Huntington, on Thursday gave lawyers for the opposition a five-day notice that the permit will be issued.
Under a proposed lawsuit settlement, Gheen was required to give the notice so that environmental lawyer Joe Lovett can fight the permit.
The lawsuit settlement requires regulators to conduct more thorough environmental impact studies.
Michael McCabe, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regional administrator, exempted Arch Coal's proposed Spruce No. 1 Mine from the settlement.
Arch's Hobet Mining Inc. subsidiary wants to strip 3,100 acres of hills and hollows near historic Blair Mountain in Logan County. The 5-square-mile project is the largest strip mine permit in state history.
Chief U.S. District Judge Charles Haden has scheduled a hearing for 4 p.m. Thursday in Charleston to hear environmental groups' challenge to the permit.
In his Thursday letter to Lovett, Gheen said he has determined that the Hobet mine was eligible to be authorized under a "nationwide" permit, which requires less regulatory scrutiny than a site-specific approval.