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Public Comment on Water Quality Standards for Surface Mines Ending

July 30, 2010

HAZARD, Ky. - The federal Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement is ending a series of informational open houses to get public comment on new rules to protect streams from the effects of surface mining. In the past two weeks, meetings have been held in Kentucky, West Virginia and elsewhere to solicit feedback for an environmental impact policy.

Chris Holmes, public affairs specialist for the agency, says the goal is to create rules that could better protect the vital headwater streams across the country from coal mining waste.

"So, we're at the stage right now where we're just going to design an environmental impact statement with the public's help; and then, we'll start drafting a new rule to protect streams from the adverse effects, if any, of coal mining."

Doug Doerrfeld, a 15-year member of Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, says a decade of scientific study shows newly understood forms of destructive pollution.

"What's happening now is that we've got an EPA that's actually going by science, and they're going to be working with the states to implement procedures and policies that truly do protect the steams and the people in the communities that live by them."

The Office of Surface Mining says the original rules regarding stream regulations and surface mining have been in existence for 27 years. Environmental groups want more stringent water quality rules for the mining industry, but coal company supporters argue that tougher rules will jeopardize jobs. Doerrfeld contends the coal industry jobs argument doesn't add up.

"They've reduced the labor force by 75 percent — not because of environmental regulations, but because they're using explosives in surface mining to get the coal more cheaply, and maximizing their profits while they've eliminated three-quarters of the jobs."

The public comment period on the new rules ends today (Friday).

Renee Shaw, Public News Service - KY