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DEP to form mining rules committee

A committee of industry lobbyists and citizens will help write regulations to implement West Virginia's new mountaintop removal law, the Division of Environmental Protection said Friday.

DEP Director Michael Miano said he hopes to name 20 members of a rule-writing committee within the next few weeks.

The proposed rules must be submitted to the Legislature by August to be considered during the 2000 regular session.

Under the federal Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act, the new state law and regulations must also be approved by the U.S. Office of Surface Mining before they can be implemented.

"Lots of work is left to be done," Miano said in a news release.

The new state law, pushed by state Sen. Lloyd Jackson, D-Lincoln, repealed a controversial mining mitigation bill passed in 1998.

The law also creates an Office of Blasting and Explosives to help coalfield residents deal with complaints about mountaintop removal blasting, and requires the state Development Office to review post-mining land use proposals from coal companies.

Miano said he hopes industry and citizen representatives can help DEP staff write rules that are fair to both sides.

"If consensus is reached, I will be happy and relieved," Miano said.

If the group can't agree, at least DEP will understand the concerns of both sides, he said.

The coal industry supported the new law. Environmentalists and citizens said it does little to address their concerns about mountaintop removal.

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


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