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Pa. plan that could hike permit fees by as much as 1,200% shocks coal industry

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Pa. plan that could hike permit fees by as much as 1,200% shocks coal industry

Coal interests were shocked to find the extent that permit feeswould have to increase in order for the industry to shoulder the state's regulatoryexpenses, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazettereported March 29.

Currently, permit fees paid by coal mine operators cover around5% of the state's expenses for authorizing and overseeing the mines while the restis drawn from the state's taxpayer-funded general fund. To facilitate full fundingby the industry, the permit fee for an underground mine would have to increase almost1,200%, rising from $5,750 to $74,000, while fees for surface mining permits andanthracite underground mining permits would increase over 600%, the report said,citing the draft proposal the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protectionreleased in February.

Pennsylvania Anthracite Council Executive Director Duane Feagleysaid the industry recognizes its responsibility to make contributions to the programbut cautioned that if the fees "get too high, it is going to negatively impactjobs and environmental reclamation in the area."

According to DEP officials, the draft proposal was only meantto aid in the talks about the coal industry taking on more funding responsibility,the report said. Thomas Callaghan, the director of DEP's Bureau of Mining Programs,said, "We have to search for other options for sustainable revenues to supportthe program. It is an ongoing, collaborative process."

The state is looking into three ways of shifting the fee structure:increasing the current permit fee amounts, charging fees for permit actions thatdon't carry a levy now, and adding an administration fee that will be collectedeach year, the report said. The DEP expects to release a revised proposal by April.

Any changes in the current regulation are not expected to takeeffect until late 2017.

Some coal producers operating in Pennsylvania include and