Here is a list of significant events in the Bragg vs. Robertson mountaintop removal case:
  • April 18, 1998 - The West Virginia Highlands Conservancy and 10
    coalfield residents filed a formal notice that they planned to sue the state Division of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers over mountaintop removal permitting.
  • July 16, 1998 - Sixty days after their warning notice, lawyers for the Conservancy and the citizens filed a complaint in U.S. District Court in Charleston against DEP and the Corps. The complaint alleged that both agencies regularly issued mountaintop removal permits that violate water quality regulations and reclamation rules.
  • Oct. 9, 1998 - Chief U.S. District Judge Charles H. Haden II refused requests by the coal industry and DEP to dismiss the case. Haden ruled that the case belongs in federal court, a
    decision that is a key issue in ongoing appeals.
  • Nov. 4, 1998 - Then-DEP Director Michael Miano issued a permit for Arch Coal Inc. to expand its Dal-Tex mountaintop removal site near Blair, Logan County. The 3,100-acre permit was the largest issued in West Virginia history.
  • Dec. 23, 1998 - Lawyers for the
    Conservancy agree to drop their complaints against the Corps. In return, federal officials promise to more closely scrutinize mining permits and conduct a detailed study of mountaintop removal.
  • March 3, 1999 - After several days of hearings and a tour of the proposed site, Haden issued a preliminary injunction blocking Arch's Dal-Tex expansion permit. The judge said a helicopter flyover of Southern
    West Virginia had revealed, "the extent and permanence of environmental degradation this type of mining produces."
  • April 9, 1999 - Frustrated with its courtroom losses, the Underwood administration hired the Charleston law firm Bailey & Glasser to defend DEP in the case.
  • June 24, 1999 - The Corps withdrew its proposed approval of the Dal-Tex expansion. The agency said there "was virtually no chance" it would win the mountaintop removal lawsuit.
  • July 23, 1999 - Nearly 400 United Mine Workers at Dal-Tex were laid off. Arch Coal says it couldn't continue operating without the expansion permit.
  • July 26, 1999 - Lawyers for DEP and the citizens agreed to settle most of the lawsuit. DEP promised to write strict new rules that require operators to rebuild mountains and replant forests. The two sides agreed to ask Haden to decide the one issue they couldn't resolve - whether the stream buffer zone rule prohibits valley fills in perennial and intermittent streams.
  • Oct. 20, 1999 - In a 49-page ruling, Haden concluded that the citizens were right. The buffer zone rule prohibits most large valley fills. The judge blocked DEP Director Michael Castle from approving any new fills in perennial and intermittent streams.
  • Oct. 29, 1999 - Haden suspended his ruling, pending an appeal to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va.
  • Nov. 18, 1999 - Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., failed in an effort to pass a legislative rider to overturn Haden's ruling.

    -Compiled by Ken Ward Jr.

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