The Secretary is directed to contract to such extent or in such amounts as are provided in advance in appropriation Acts with the National Academy of Sciences-National Academy of Engineering for an in-depth study of surface coal mining conditions in the State of Alaska in order to determine which, if any, of the provisions of this chapter should be modified with respect to surface coal mining operations in Alaska.
The Secretary shall report on the findings of the study to the President and Congress no later than two years after August 3, 1977.
The Secretary shall include in his report a draft of legislation to implement any changes recommended to this chapter.
Until one year after the Secretary has made this report to the President and Congress, or three years after August 3, 1977, whichever comes first, the Secretary is authorized to modify the applicability of any environmental protection provision of this chapter, or any regulation issued pursuant thereto, to any surface coal mining operation in Alaska from which coal has been mined during the year preceding August 3, 1977, if he determines that it is necessary to insure the continued operation of such surface coal mining operation. The Secretary may exercise this authority only after he has (1) published notice of proposed modification in the Federal Register and in a newspaper of general circulation in the area of Alaska in which the affected surface coal mining operation is located, and (2) held a public hearing on the proposed modification in Alaska.
In order to allow new mines in Alaska to continue orderly development, the Secretary is authorized to issue interim regulations pursuant to section 1251(b) of this title including those modifications to the environmental standards as required based on the special physical, hydrological and climatic conditions in Alaska but with the purpose of protecting the environment to an extent equivalent to those standards for the other coal regions.
There is authorized to be appropriated for the purpose of this section $250,000: Provided, That no new budget authority is authorized to be appropriated for fiscal year 1977.