Coal Tattoo

Lawyers for the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy earlier today filed papers seeking to reopen their federal court lawsuit over our state’s troubled special reclamation fund, the program aimed at cleaning up mine sites abandoned since passage of the federal strip-mining law.

I’ve posted a copy of their legal brief here. Folks who aren’t familiar with the history of this issue might check out previous stories here and here for some background.

Basically, the new legal action alleges that state lawmakers failed to consider — let alone adopt — a recommendation from a WVDEP advisory council that they nearly double the current 14.4 cents-per-ton coal-production tax that funds the special reclamation program.

I’ve also posted a copy of the advisory council’s annual report here, and a letter that WVDEP Secretary Randy Huffman sent to legislative leaders about this subject here. Technically, the defendant in the lawsuit is OSMRE, because federal officials have approved the state’s special reclamation program, despite repeated concerns that it doesn’t have enough money — especially now that the WVDEP is required to treat water discharges from those sites to meet water pollution standards.

Stay tuned … before the Conservancy can seek any changes to the program, it must first get U.S. District Judge John T. Copenhaver to agree to reopen the case.

UPDATED: OSMRE issued the following statement —

OSM is aware of the motion filed today by the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy to reopen this case, and we are reviewing the case.