MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- The three-year-old battle over the proposed expansion of a northern West Virginia surface mine is now headed for the state Supreme Court.The Sierra Club is appealing a March ruling in Kanawha County Circuit Court that favored the state Department of Environmental Protection and Patriot Mining, a subsidiary of St. Louis-based Arch Coal.Patriot wants to expand the New Hill Mine near Cassville by 225 acres and is trying to modify its water pollution permits.
But environmentalists argue that coal ash runoff will pollute Scotts Run. The Dominion Post says coal ash is used at the strip mine to reduce acid mine runoff.The Environmental Quality Board blocked the expansion and ordered DEP to rewrite the permit to impose new federal guidelines for conductivity and other pollutants.Conductivity is a measure of a stream's ability to pass an electrical current, which can be used to determine its health. High conductivity might indicate other pollutants such as chloride, phosphate and nitrate.Patriot and the DEP challenged the board's order, and last month, Kanawha Circuit Judge James Stuckey sided with them. He ruled the board exceeded its authority by attempting to impose federal water quality standards without considering the DEP's interpretation and said that infringing on the DEP's authority was "arbitrary and capricious." The Sierra Club, however, argues that Stucky failed to acknowledge the EQB's independent authority under state law.