MORGANTOWN (AP) — Groups trying to protect Logan County’s Blair Mountain from mining have no legal standing to sue because they don’t own any of the property involved in the long-running dispute, the West Virginia Coal Association argues in a new court filing.
The association’s friend-of-the-court brief asks U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton to grant summary judgment to the U.S. Department of Interior. It argues the Sierra Club and other several other groups have no legal standing to sue Interior, the National Park Service or the Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places.
Walton has scheduled a status conference for March 1.
In 1921, some 10,000 coal miners who had been trying to unionize for years marched to Blair and faced down a dug-in army of police and hired guns who had homemade bombs and machine guns. At least 16 men died before the miners surrendered to federal troops in what became the nation’s largest armed uprising since the Civil War.
The 1,600-acre battlefield was briefly added to the Register then removed when private property owners objected.
The Coal Association says the groups have no standing to sue because they don’t own any battlefield property and have suffered no harm from the site’s delisting. They also argue that the property cannot legally be added to the Register over the objections of a majority of landowners.
The case is part of a multipronged effort by labor, environmental and historic preservation groups to protect the site from mining.
Last summer, they failed to convince the state Department of Environmental Protection to declare the site unsuitable for mining. The DEP ruled that about 30 percent of the land is exempt from that declaration because it’s already covered under mining permits, while other areas are exempt because there is clear evidence of past mining activity.
The groups responded to that by suing in Kanawha County Circuit Court and delivering the State Historic Preservation Office a petition bearing more than 26,000 signatures.
The state has not moved to restore the mountain’s designation.