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DEP to hold AOC meeting Monday

State regulators have scheduled a meeting for Monday to discuss a new "approximate original contour" reclamation policy for mountaintop removal mining.

The state Division of Environmental Protection set the meeting for 6:30 p.m. in the third-floor ballroom of the Geary Student Union at the University of Charleston.

DEP Director Michael Miano said engineers from his agency will explain the proposal and take questions from the public. The public will then have 30 days to comment on the proposal, Miano said.

"We're going to take this program and we're going to run with it," Miano said. "We recognize we have an opportunity here to improve our process."

The U.S. Office of Surface Mining announced Tuesday that DEP would test what could eventually become a national policy to define approximate original contour, or AOC.

Under the 1977 federal strip mining law, coal operators are generally required to return mined land to its approximate original contour. Mountaintop removal mines are allowed to ignore AOC, and flatten the land, only if they receive a variance and propose post-mining development.

In West Virginia, however, most mountaintop removal mines never received AOC variances or proposed any post-mining development.

The new OSM policy is intended to close a loophole that allowed mountaintop removal mines to be permitted as if they met the AOC requirement.

Under the rule, most rock and earth removed to reach coal reserves would have to be stacked back on mined hilltops, not dumped into valley fills that bury streams.

Groups interested in having the new policy explained to them can schedule an appearance by a DEP official by calling agency spokesman Andy Gallagher at (304) 759-0515 or e-mailing Gallagher at agallag...@mail.dep.state.wv.us.

To contact staff writer Ken Ward Jr., call 348-1702.


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