During a federal court hearing May 16, Callaghan testified about the possibility of a special session.
"I'm working closely with the governor's office, who is working with [House] Speaker [Bob] Kiss and [Senate] President [Earl Ray] Tomblin in discussing the possibility of calling a special session within the next month or two months to address this very serious issue," Callaghan testified.
Now, that idea is apparently off the table.
In a June 8 weekly report to the White House, OSM officials said that, "the governor is supporting WVDEP's attempts to correct the program but, because of industry objections, there is no support by the Legislature for a special session to deal with this problem at this time." In response, OSM gave the state until 45 days after the end of the 2002 regular legislative session to enact changes in the bonding program. Next year, the 60-day legislative session will end in mid-March.
So, the OSM plan gives the state at least another 10 months to do something about its bond problem.
Lawyers for the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy want Chief U.S. District Judge Charles H. Haden II to make OSM and the state move faster.
A lawsuit to force an OSM takeover of the state's bonding program is pending before Haden in U.S. District Court in Charleston.
The bond program has a multimillion-dollar deficit. But no one really knows how much money the state needs to fix the program.
In January 1981, OSM gave "conditional approval" to the state's plan to regulate strip mine bonds.
Among other things, federal regulators said their approval was "conditioned upon the submission of an independent study demonstrating that the fund will contain, on a continuous basis, enough money to meet the demands placed upon it." In recent filings with Haden, Conservancy lawyers allege that such a study was never conducted.
"Instead, in 1982, West Virginia submitted a 'preliminary study,'" Conservancy lawyers told Haden in court filings.
State officials themselves conceded that, "Much of the data needed to make a conclusive study did not exist. ... A final actuarial study of the fund was not made." Still, OSM said that the state's preliminary study was good enough.
In 1983, they lifted the condition on their approval of the state's bonding program.
Three years later, a 1986 review by the General Accounting Office criticized OSM for doing so. "OSM has not done an analysis or applied criteria to assure that the permanent program alternative bonding systems will be adequate," the GAO said.
"Consequently, the systems are continuing to operate without clear evidence that their methods to replenish the supplemental funds are adequate to assure reclamation of all permanent program bond forfeiture lands."