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House Panel Grills Regulator Over Coal Mine Permits, Cleanups



November 17, 2023 - A top Interior Department official defended the administration against accusations of slowing the release of billions of dollars needed to clean up abandoned mines and polluted communities.

Glenda Owens, the highest-ranking official at the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, said her agency is moving carefully to dole out more than $11 billion tied to the bipartisan infrastructure law for cleaning up former coal mining sites. 

Glenda Owens, acting director of the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, on Capitol Hill on Tuesday.

House Natural Resources Committee/YouTube

The law reauthorized a fee on coal mining companies to clean up abandoned coal mines sites before the passage of the 1977 Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act, or SMCRA, and injected more $11 million into the effort.

“This is so much more funding than we’ve had and we want to make sure it’s maximized, we only have 15 years,” Owens told members of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources. "We need to get it right."

But Republican Rep. Pete Stauber of Minnesota, who chairs the subcommittee, blamed the administration's red tape for delaying the approval of new mining and reclamation of abandoned sites.