The public won't get another chance to comment on the largest mountaintop removal mine in state history, the Division of Environmental Protection announced Wednesday.DEP Director Michael Miano said in a prepared statement that his agency had determined changes to the Arch Coal Inc. Spruce No. 1 permit are "insignificant."Under DEP rules, that means the permit will not have to go through another public comment period.Miano on Wednesday also approved changes in the 3,100-acre Spruce permit submitted by Arch Coal to comply with an agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Larry Alt, permit supervisor at the DEP Office of Mining and Reclamation's Logan field office, said the additional public comment period would have further delayed Arch Coal receiving permit approval."We found it an insignificant change since the area of the initial impact of the proposed mine had been lessened," Alt said in the DEP news release.Under pressure from EPA, Arch Coal subsidiary Hobet Mining agreed to cut back the size of valley fills at the mine by 40 percent.But DEP officials also said they assume the company will come back in a few years and seek approval for the entire, original permit.The Spruce mine was exempted from a new federal government policy that would require extensive environmental studies before mountaintop removal mines are permitted.Environmentalists are expected to challenge that decision in court.They also have 30 days to appeal the mining permit changes to the state Surface Mine Board.The Spruce mine would be located near Blair in Logan County.The mine must still receive approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers before mining can begin. To contact staff writer Ken Ward Jr., call 348-1702.