"We've made conscious decisions as an agency and an administration on where we choose to pick a fight," Huffman said. "We made our choices and we feel like they were good choices. We feel like we challenged what needed to be challenged."
Huffman said he's not sure Morrisey has independent authority to challenge federal environmental regulations.
"As I understand it," Huffman said, "the attorney general needs a client."
In the 1990s, McGraw feuded with DEP officials over environmental policies, often over his belief that the agency was going too easy on the owners of large garbage dumps that hauled out-of-state trash into West Virginia.
Partly because of those fights, state lawmakers gave the DEP authority to hire its own lawyers and operate an in-house Office of Legal Services.
In his "Talkline" appearance, Morrisey said he would prefer to work with the governor and other state officials on an approach to dealing with EPA issues.
"I'm not one to just run out and file a lawsuit," Morrisey said, "[but] the attorney general does possess independent power to challenge some of these regulations."
Huffman said he sees no need to change the way the DEP's legal work is handled, either now or in the future.
"I'm interested in protecting the arrangement I have now," Huffman said. "I don't need to be in a position to be constantly arguing with a statewide elected official about what environmental policy should be."
Huffman said Morrisey and Tomblin might agree about the need to fight EPA policies, but they might disagree about the specifics of how to do so. And, Huffman said, a future attorney general and governor might not agree about environmental policies.
"I don't think it's best for the attorney general to decide what the state's position should be," Huffman said. "I feel like there can only be one coach."
Scott Will, a spokesman for Morrisey, said Friday, "This is not the right time for a debate over the powers of the office, as Patrick has emphasized that he wants to work collaboratively with the governor and the agencies to speak with one voice to protect the state's interests."
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.