The basis on which state aid for the coal industry may be granted is currently governed by Council Regulation EC 1407/2002 (Coal Regulation), which expires in December 2010. The European Commission (Commission) has opened consultation on whether to maintain or introduce new sector specific rules after that date. The Commission recognises that 10 EU Member States currently produce hard coal and at least six provide state aid. The Commission's initial thoughts are that in certain cases aid which is currently being provided might be able to be authorised under the general rules such as the Regional Aid guidelines or the Guidelines on Environmental aid. It has also signalled that it would not support aid to the coal sector indefinitely. However, early signs are that the Commission is open to the possibility that some sector specific rules may be justified. Interested parties are invited to give their views in writing to the Commission by 15 July 2009.