CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A federal judge has lifted a court order that had temporarily blocked continued mining operations at a mountaintop removal site in Boone County.U.S. District Judge Robert C. Chambers denied a request from the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition and other groups for a preliminary injunction against a Clean Water Act permit for Loadout LLC's Nellis Surface Mine.Chambers had previously issued a temporary restraining order blocking that permit until he could hear more detailed arguments from environmental groups, the company and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.In a three-page order issued Thursday, Chambers said that the company had already "substantially constructed and utilized" two valley fill waste piles in Davey Fork at the time the permit was issued in 2009.
"Continuing to use those fills will result in additional fill material being placed on the fill and small additional lengths of the stream being filled in the uppermost reaches of the affected waters," the judge wrote."Significant environmental harm has already occurred and cannot be undone, even if plaintiffs ultimately prevail," the judge wrote. "The additional harm that may result from completing the fill activities is speculative and insufficient to support injunctive relief as to the Dave Fork fills."The ruling does not necessarily end the lawsuit, however.Chambers wrote that Loadout does not anticipate any fill activities in Mech Fork over the next two years, a time frame that allows the court to fully hear arguments over the mining operations in that area.Reach Ken Ward Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1702.