CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Legal Newsline) - West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin announced Wednesday the State is filing a lawsuit against the Obama administration over its attempts to curb mountaintop coal removal in West Virginia.
At a morning press conference held at the state Capitol, Manchin said the suit challenges the federal Environmental Protection Agency's regulatory plan that the agency says will eliminate valley fills and its "attempts to destroy the coal-mining industry and our way of life."
The governor said the suit would be filed later Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Charleston by the state Department of Environmental Protection. Named as defendants will be the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the federal Army Corps of Engineers, state officials said.
Manchin appeared at the press conference with officials from the West Virginia Coal Association and the United Mine Workers. Also in attendance were state DEP Secretary Randy Huffman and Ben Bailey, a Charleston lawyer whose firm -- Bailey and Glasser -- was hired by the administration earlier this year to help plan legal action against the EPA.
Bailey's firm, Bailey & Glasser, has also been picked by state Attorney General Darrell McGraw to represent the State in other matters in the past.
Bailey says the lawsuit seeks to abolish the agency's "rigorous" reviews of Clean Water Act permits and to block the feds from implementing tougher water quality standards.
The suit, he says, will challenge whether federal officials followed the proper procedures before enforcing the new standards announced this spring.
The lawsuit comes as Manchin, who is running for the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by the late Robert C. Byrd, continues to face criticism for his ties to President Barack Obama.
At the press conference Wednesday, Manchin noted the suit has been in the works since before the senator's death in June.
Manchin, invoking Byrd's legacy, pulled out a copy of the U.S. Constitution and quoted the 10th Amendment, which deals with states' powers.
But a spokesman for John Raese, the Morgantown businessman Manchin is facing at the polls Nov. 2, points to Manchin's approach to coal prior to the last 30 days of his campaign.
Kevin McLaughlin -- in light of the governor's "hastily arranged, secret press conference" -- claims that less than two years ago Manchin said he was "comfortable" with Obama's stance on coal.
"He proceeded to take absolutely no legal action against the EPA's regulations until he dropped behind in the polls just weeks before the election," McLaughlin said in a statement.
The results of a Rasmussen Reports survey released Wednesday shows Raese extending his lead over Manchin. The poll has Raese ahead with the support of 50 percent of likely voters and Manchin with 44 percent.
"West Virginians need someone in Washington that won't be a rubber stamp for President Obama's radical agenda. They need someone who has the foresight to stand up for West Virginia values and oppose government overreaches like Obamacare and cap and trade before they become law, not after polls get tight," McLaughlin said.