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Regulators want more time to review coal mine application

BISMARCK (AP) -- State regulators said Friday they plan to take more time to review plans to open a new coal mine in southwestern North Dakota after a technical review found hundreds of deficiencies in the application.

The North Dakota Public Service Commission's review of South Heart Coal LLC's mining application listed 376 deficiencies, many of them appearing to be clerical. Some legal descriptions and landowners weren't correctly or completely listed, and some electronic links within the application itself did not work.

The mine's developer said the findings were normal. The company hopes to have most of the issues resolved by late June, said Richard Voss, a vice president for South Heart Coal's parent company.

Other concerns outlined by regulators in a 68-page letter were more substantive, asking how the company would handle soil that is removed during coal mining, and how the mine's effect on local groundwater supplies would be monitored.

"It's a lengthy process," Voss said Friday. "A lot of it is routine ... We're certainly going to work everything out with them."

Jim Deutsch, director of the commission's reclamation division, said the agency would take an extra four months to examine the application once the concerns outlined in its original technical review were satisfied.

The proposed mine is near South Heart in western Stark County. It has drawn objections from some neighboring landowners, who say it would affect local water supplies and land uses.

Opponents also dislike the project's closeness to the south unit of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park, which is about 13 miles west of the mine's proposed location.

The Public Service Commission has scheduled two public hearings on the project, which will be held at 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. on June 28 at Dickinson State University's Beck Auditorium. The commission has also been asked to schedule a formal hearing on the mine application, which will allow opponents to directly question the mine's developers.

Voss said he hoped the majority of the permit deficiencies in the Public Service Commission's technical review would be resolved by then.

"We're going to make sure (state regulators) are comfortable with everything," he said.