November 5, 2023 - As part of the Biden-Harris administration’s Investing in Rural America event series, Acting Deputy Secretary of the Interior Laura Daniel-Davis traveled to Virginia this week to highlight how investments from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law are creating jobs, revitalizing local economies and cleaning up toxic abandoned mine land sites.
Since Day One, the Biden-Harris administration has made historic investments in rural America, including in economic development and rebuilding infrastructure. Under Bidenomics and the Investing in America agenda, President Biden is growing the economy from the middle-out and bottom-up, because investing in America means investing in all of America – leaving no community behind.
During her visit, Acting Deputy Secretary Daniel-Davis participated in a community roundtable and toured an abandoned mine land (AML) reclamation project site in Dickenson County that is being funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. She also toured project sites in Dickenson, Russell and Wise Counties benefiting from funding distributed through the Abandoned Mine Land Economic Revitalization (AMLER) Program.
Millions of Americans nationwide, including many Virginians, live less than a mile from an abandoned coal mine. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides $11.3 billion for abandoned mine land reclamation over 15 years, facilitated by the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE). This historic funding is expected to address the majority of currently inventoried abandoned coal mine lands in the nation, which will help communities address and eliminate safety hazards and dangerous pollution caused by previous coal mining. Virginia received nearly $23 million in Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funds in the first year of the AML program.
AML reclamation supports jobs in communities by investing in projects that close dangerous mine shafts, reclaim unstable slopes, improve water quality by treating acid mine drainage, and restore water supplies damaged by mining. It also enables economic revitalization by reclaiming hazardous land for recreational facilities and other economic redevelopment uses, such as advanced manufacturing and renewable energy deployment.
In a roundtable with federal and state partners, labor, environmental justice and community leaders, Acting Deputy Secretary Daniel-Davis heard about how AML investments are making transformational impacts in Virginia. Historic funding is advancing the Biden-Harris administration’s unprecedented investments in communities and workers to support an equitable transition to a sustainable economy and healthier environment after the closure of mines or power plants. This effort also advances the President’s commitment to environmental justice and the Justice40 Initiative, which aims to deliver 40 percent of the overall benefits of certain climate and clean energy investments to disadvantaged communities.
The Camp Creek Landslide project is one of Virginia’s first two projects – both currently under construction – using Bipartisan Infrastructure funds, with more projects to come that will protect homes, infrastructure, and the environment from the safety hazards and pollution of historic coal mining. Acting Deputy Secretary Daniel-Davis toured the site, where unstable coal mine waste materials have formed a partial landslide, impacting nearby homes and farmland, and threatening the habitat and flow of the Pound River. Through a $1.6 million investment from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Camp Creek project will relocate public water lines, construct a temporary bridge to access the landslide during reclamation work, remove landslide material, stabilize the site, and address impacts to the nearby river.
AML funds from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law supplement traditional annual AML grants, which are funded by active coal operations. In the 46 years since the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 was enacted, OSMRE has provided more than $8 billion under the AML reclamation program to reclaim lands and waters that were mined or affected by mining prior to 1977.
The AMLER Program, managed by OSMRE, supports local investment opportunities that return legacy coal mining sites to productive uses through economic and community development. Acting Deputy Secretary Daniel-Davis toured a number of sites that have been returned to productive use through AMLER funds, including the Trammel Community Revitalization project in Dickenson County, through which 8 blighted structures will be removed and sidewalk infrastructure improved; the Dante Community Revitalization Project in Russell County, where AMLER funds will be used to develop walking and mountain bike trails and to reclaim two open mine portals; the Wise County Solar Project, which reclaimed formerly mined land adjacent to the existing Mineral Gap Data Center for a solar energy installation with approximately 9,000 modules; and Project Intersection, located north of U.S. Highway 58 and east of U.S. Highway 23 in Norton, VA, which, once complete, will host more than 5 building sites – including an EarthLink location – and serve as the centerpiece for a regional economic development effort for Wise, Lee, Scott and Dickenson Counties in Virginia.