Federal strip mine regulators will no longer write reports when they review mountaintop removal permits from the state Division of Environmental Protection.The U.S. Office of Surface Mining announced the decision in a letter to The Charleston Gazette concerning public access to future reports. The letter, from Roger Calhoun, director of the OSM Charleston field office, was dated Friday.Last month, the Gazette published stories about OSM reviews of strip mine permits for Pittston Coal and A.T. Massey Coal. The OSM reports detailed numerous ways the two permits did not comply with state or federal surface mining laws.In one case, the OSM report was leaked to the newspaper. In the other, OSM Director Kathy Karpan released it after the newspaper filed a Freedom of Information Act request.
In his letter, Calhoun indicated that detailed, written permit reviews are not necessary."Our current process is intended to create more interaction between OSM and WVDEP permit reviewers during the review process," Calhoun wrote.
"The OSM and WVDEP technical reviewers will discuss the technical issues of each application during the review process," he wrote. "The OSM review will then result in summary notes of the technical issues identified during the review without a detailed discussion of program requirements."The WVDEP, as the permitting authority, will prepare and send a letter identifying necessary technical corrections to the permit applicant."Cahoun said OSM intends to create a public review file in the Charleston field office for each application reviewed.Summary notes and the DEP letter to the permit applicant will go in the file, Calhoun said. To contact staff writer Ken Ward Jr., call 348-1702.