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Mountaintop removal comments due Jan. 6

Coal industry critics and supporters will have another four months to review a federal government study of mountaintop removal mining, officials said Thursday.

Federal regulators have decided to extend the public comment period on the study by 130 days, agency officials said Thursday.

Under the plan, comments on the study will be due by Jan. 6, 2004. Previously, the deadline was Aug. 29.

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The U.S. Office of Surface Mining and other agencies announced the move in a news release Thursday afternoon. A legal notice of the comment period extension is expected next week in the Federal Register.

Regulators also said that they had set up an e-mail address for accepting comments on the study. The address is mountaintop.r3@epa.gov.

Written comments may be sent to John Forren, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, (3EA30), 1650 Arch St., Philadelphia, PA 19103.

OSM, EPA and other agencies released the mining study in late May. Under a legal settlement, it was supposed to be finished by December 2000.

In the 5,000-page study, the agencies conclude that mountaintop removal is destroying Appalachian streams and forests. But, they propose no new concrete restrictions on mountaintop removal.

Instead of such restrictions, the Bush administration proposes to streamline the permitting process for coal companies.

During public hearings in Charleston and Hazard, Ky., last month, citizen groups asked the federal agencies to extend the comment period on the study.

The study and related information is available online at http://www.epa.gov/region3/mtntop/index.htm.


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