Alpha lawyer Bob McLusky argued that a previous ruling by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals instructs Chambers to defer to the corps when the agency determines mining proposals will not adversely impact water quality.
But Lovett noted the decision also said such deference is only required when agencies are relying on "the reasonable opinions of their own qualified experts."
In this instance, Lovett said, the corps' own lead permit reviewer testified at trial that she didn't consider herself an expert on whether mining operations are causing water quality damage.
"No qualified person reviewed the record," Lovett said."[The corps] doesn't have any qualified experts here."
C.J. Morris, a lawyer for the corps, said it "wouldn't be reasonably practicable for the U.S. government to have an entire staff of experts" to review various issues raised in coal-mining permits. "It's not a reasonable requirement," Morris said.
Chambers said he hopes to issue a ruling within two weeks.
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.