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Army Corps proposes to reissue regional general permit for ND coal mining

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is proposing to reissue a regional general permit for surface coal mining in North Dakota.

The Omaha District of the Army Corps sought a regional general permit in 2012 when the Army Corps was considering not reissuing a nationwide permit program for coal mining. The Army Corps also considered not reissuing a nationwide permit in 2017 as well as not allowing a regional general permit to be developed for surface coal mines.

This would have forced all mines to go through the more rigorous standard permit process, which has authorized only one surface coal mine.

The Army Corps reissued the nationwide permits on March 19, but it prohibits its use to authorize mountaintop mining and "valley fills" as well as limiting permanent impacts to 0.5-acre waters of the United States.

Permitting under a regional general permit would mean that the mines in the area would be authorized to discharge dredged or fill materials into waters of the United States that are already permitted by the North Dakota Public Service Commission, which implements the Surface Coal Mining and Reclamation Act of 1977.

"There appears to be no clear advantage to the environment realized by requiring mining companies to go through the [standard permit] process," the proposal announcement by the Army Corps said.

The comment period for the proposal is open from March 30 to May 1.