Dana Kuhnline, RECLAIM Campaign Coordinator, firstname.lastname@example.org, (304) 825-3262
Jamie Goodman, Digital Communications Specialist, email@example.com, (828) 719-9493
APPALACHIA — Late Friday night, the U.S. House passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which includes reauthorization of the Abandoned Mine Land (AML) Program and provides an additional $11.3 billion for abandoned mine cleanup.
This bipartisan bill passed the Senate in August. In addition to this significant boost to clean up dangerous and polluting abandoned mine lands, the bill invests in creating jobs by repairing infrastructure, building out broadband, and expanding access to clean water. However, much more is needed to invest in communities at the scale that matches the need and put the region on track toward a resilient clean energy future. We urge swift passage (in both chambers) of the pending Build Back Better Act.
The bill reauthorizes collection of the AML fee on current coal production at 80% of its current level for an additional 13 years. The AML Program was created through the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 to provide a way to clean up mines abandoned prior to passage of the act. The program has distributed just over $6 billion to states and tribes for AML cleanup over the past four decades. The Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Enforcement estimates that over $11 billion is still needed to clean up remaining AML sites. Independent analysis by the Ohio River Valley Institute estimates the figure is likely more than $20 billion.
The $11.3 billion will be distributed to states and tribes over 15 years, based on historic coal production. West Virginia, Kentucky, Virginia, and Tennessee will see increased annual funding, as will most other coal-producing states. This increased funding will result in nearly 3,000 jobs and $7.45 billion in economic output across West Virginia, Ohio, and Virginia, according to analysis by the Reclaiming Appalachia Coalition.
“Reauthorization of the AML Program has broad support from communities and local governments across Appalachia,” said Erin Savage, Senior Program Manager for Appalachian Voices. “We are thrilled that Congress has listened to communities that have been dealing with abandoned mine sites for decades. This historic influx of funding will go a long way toward addressing remaining abandoned mines, and providing investments in the coal-bearing regions that powered our country for over a century.”
Stakeholders across the United States have been analyzing the bill language to ensure that this historic investment is as impactful as possible. Priorities for implementation will include ensuring these funds employ local workers, are equitably distributed to states that need them most, and provide funding for the long-term restoration of water damaged by historic coal mining, including acid mine drainage remediation.
Reclamation of AML sites improves environmental, community, and economic health in coal-impacted communities. Cleanup addresses hazards including open mine portals, dangerous highwalls, and water pollution. To ensure maximum impact for communities, advocates urge Congress to take steps to ensure local labor is used in these projects, set clear project labor agreements, and prioritize local input so that funding goes to cleaning up the sites that pose the most serious risk to community health and safety.
“We applaud our region’s champions in Congress who have worked closely with Appalachian groups to hear about our region’s priorities and the investments we want to see, and made sure many of these priorities made it into this bill, however, this bill is only the first step for our region,” said Chelsea Barnes, Legislative Director with Appalachian Voices. “We are now looking forward to working with the House and the Senate to get the Build Back Better Act over the finish line.”
Appalachian Voices is a leading nonprofit advocate for a healthy environment and just economy in the Appalachian region, and a driving force in America’s shift from fossil fuels to a clean energy future.