Efforts to secure cleanup funds for abandoned mine sites are moving forward at the nation’s capital and in Appalachian towns. The Abandoned Mine Land program aims to clean up the thousands of mine-related problems left behind by coal companies before 1977, when a law requiring mine reclamation was passed. Although there is at least $10 billion in abandoned mine cleanup costs remaining, the coal company fee that supports the program will expire in September 2021 unless Congress acts.
In early December, the town of Dungannon, Va., and the City of Norton, Va., both passed resolutions calling on Congress to reauthorize the Abandoned Mine Land program.
The resolutions note that “the reclamation of such sites provide[s] local job opportunities at a time when economic growth is needed” and call on politicians to extend the program for 15 years. More towns and cities are expected to consider resolutions in December and into 2020.
On Nov. 14, the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources’ Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources held a hearing on a bill introduced by Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-PA) that would extend the Abandoned Mine Land program.
Bobby Hughes, executive director of the Eastern Pennsylvania Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation, testified during the hearing and described “mine-scarred landscapes and polluted waterways.”
“The majority of the streams that I’ve grown up around still run orange to this day due to the very large flows, expansive underground mine pools, and expensive treatment costs,” Hughes testified. “It’s not fair that my children have to live with this legacy of past mining that I have had to endure over my lifetime.”
Supporters of Cartwright’s bill, called the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act Amendments of 2019, include Appalachian Voices, the group that publishes this newspaper.
Appalachian Voices is also among the organizations working to secure passage of the RECLAIM Act, a separate bill that also relates to the Abandoned Mine Land fund. Currently, $2.5 billion in the fund is not scheduled to be used for mine cleanup until after 2023. This bill would accelerate the spending of $1 billion of that to prioritize cleanup of abandoned mine sites that advances community-supported economic development projects. — By Molly Moore
Stay informed about local resolutions to support the Abandoned Mine Land program at reclaimingappalachia.org/reauthorization.