Legislation Introduced to Clean Up Abandoned Coal Mines
September 10, 2019 - Pennsylvania Congressmen Matt Cartwright and Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson introduced legislation on Monday to clean up America’s abandoned coal mines, by ensuring states have enough resources to restore polluted sites to their original condition and to spur new economic development in former coal communities.
The Abandoned Mine Land Reauthorization Act will reauthorize the Abandoned Mine Land (AML) trust fund, which allows states to collect small fees from active coal mine operators in order to pay for abandoned mine reclamation. The fund was established through the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (SMCRA), and is set to expire in two years. By extending states’ authority to collect money into the fund, this bill will ensure the health and well-being of the millions of Americans living within a mile of an abandoned coal mine, by ensuring their communities have the resources needed to clean up polluted and dangerous sites.
“This act is vital for many communities in my district and around the country,” said Congressman Cartwright, a member of the Appropriations Committee. “Abandoned coal mines pose a great risk to our health, our environment, and our economic development. Nearly 10% of all Pennsylvanians live within one mile of an abandoned mine. We need to invest in their well-being and make sure they are safe from the health hazards that come from living near these sites.”
“Pennsylvania’s heritage is rooted in coal, which powered an industrial revolution and won two World Wars. With these great advancements also came the need for environmental mitigation, and while we have made great progress over the past four decades, there remains much to be done,” said Congressman Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson. “Reauthorizing the AML fund will ensure continued support for critical reclamation activities, while also providing both environmental and economic benefits to coal regions. With the current trust fund set to expire in September 2021, Congress must take up this bipartisan legislation.”
Specifically, the AML Act will extend states’ authority to collect fees at current levels for 15 years. It would also:
- expand funding for states that have not been certified for reclaiming high-priority coal AML areas;
- provide for the delegation of emergency AML programs to states;
- and reimburse states for AML fees that were sequestered since Fiscal Year 2013.
The environmental benefits of the AML Act will be felt across the state of Pennsylvania, where there are nearly one quarter-million acres of abandoned coal mines.
“We don’t deserve to have to wait any longer for clean streams, green spaces, vibrant and diversified regional economies, and communities in which our children can safely recreate, live, work, and play,” said Robert Hughes, Executive Director of the Eastern Pennsylvania Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation (EPCAMR). “EPCAMR would like to thank both honorable congressmen for their bipartisan leadership over the years because we know they have seen and witnessed, first-hand, the effects and impacts that these environmental scars have caused within their old and new congressional districts. Their leadership on SMCRA Reauthorization is paramount to its passage in Congress.”
The AML Act is supported by the following local and national organizations: American Sportfishing Association, Cheat Lake Environment and Recreation Association, Citizens Coal Council, Dunkard Creek Watershed Association, Eastern Pennsylvania Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation, Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds, Friends of the Cheat, Friends of Deckers Creek, Interstate Mining Compact Commission, Mountain Watershed Association, National Association of Abandoned Mine Land Programs, National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resource Analysis Center at West Virginia University, Pennsylvania Association of Conservation Districts, Pennsylvania Environmental Council, Trout Unlimited, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, Western Pennsylvania Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation, and Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.