Press Release

Major progress for action to address acid mine drainage crisis as STREAM Act passes House with strong bipartisan support

Community advocates celebrate as bill advances to ensure funding from bipartisan infrastructure package can be used to clean up long-term water pollution issues

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 27, 2022

Contact:
Trey Pollard, trey@pollardcommunications.com, 202-904-9187

COAL COUNTRY — Today, advocates for abandoned mine clean up and clean water across the country celebrated as the U.S. House passed the Safeguarding Treatment for the Restoration of Ecosystems from Abandoned Mines (STREAM) Act — bipartisan legislation that would guarantee that major new investments in abandoned mine land clean up can be directed to address the acid mine drainage (AMD) crisis that threatens waterways across the country. After passing out of committee with unanimous support earlier this month, the bill passed the House 391 to 9.

“Abandoned mines and their discharges into waterways threaten people and wildlife alike,” said David Willms, senior director of Western wildlife and public lands at the National Wildlife Federation. “The STREAM Act is a common-sense, bipartisan proposal to reclaim and restore mining sites, protect clean drinking water, and support the nation’s $887 billion outdoor recreation economy. Thank you to Representatives McKinley and Cartwright and the House for passing this important legislation. The Senate should swiftly follow suit.”

“Without the STREAM Act, organizations like ours would not be able to access sizable new federal investments to build on our work to clean up acid mine drainage in the tributaries of the Cheat River,” said Amanda Pitzer, executive director of Friends of the Cheat in West Virginia. “We appreciate Congressman McKinley’s leadership in introducing this solution which will help clean up our water, create jobs, and support our communities. Now, we hope our senators follow through by passing this bipartisan bill promptly to unlock these dollars so they start to have a positive impact across West Virginia.”

The STREAM Act was introduced with bipartisan support in the House in March by Rep. Matt Cartwright (PA) and Rep. David McKinley (WV) and in the Senate by Sen. Bob Casey (PA) and Sen. Mike Braun (IN). The bill addresses a technical issue in the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. While that legislation secured $11.3 billion in critically important investments for coal communities via the Abandoned Mine Lands (AML) program, a limitation on this funding that does not exist in the current AML program prevents these investments from being put in set-aside accounts for the long-term treatment of AMD. The STREAM Act provides a fix to that issue, ensuring states can use these landmark investments for the perpetual treatment that acid mine drainage requires.

“Acid mine drainage threatens the health of people and wildlife for decades after coal mines have been abandoned, and it is imperative states can create and sustain long-term solutions to this long-term problem,” Sierra Club Senior Organizing Representative Bonnie Swinford said. “The STREAM Act is a commonsense and much-needed piece of legislation, and we congratulate Congressman Matt Cartwright and his colleagues on its passage in the House. Now, the Senate must quickly pass the STREAM Act to protect the health of communities across the country, create jobs, and revitalize local economies.”

“We are grateful for Congressman Cartwright’s leadership on this key issue,” said Bobby Hughes, executive director of the Eastern Pennsylvania Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation (EPCAMR). “Ensuring that funds exist for long-term opération and maintenance is essential for making sure that acid mine drainage (AMD) problems are addressed and that we have waterways that are inviting for recreation and safe for community use. Now is the time we really need private landowners to be open to consideration of future monitoring and eventual treatment of AMD if we are going to clean up Pennsylvania’s over 5500 miles of impaired waterways.

Coal mines that have been shuttered for decades are still polluting streams, rivers, creeks and lakes in coal-impacted communities across the country, turning bodies of water red or orange due to a chemical reaction that creates acid mine drainage. Acid mine drainage never goes away, and requires ongoing water treatment — and innovative solutions spurred by investments in AMD clean up create jobs and help revitalize local economies. More information and local stories about the challenges posed by AMD and the opportunities created by cleaning it up are available here.

“No one should have to live in a community threatened by polluted water, so we are grateful for Rep. Cartwright, Rep. McKinley, Senator Casey, and Senator Braun’s efforts to solve the acid mine drainage crisis while creating jobs at the same time,” said Chelsea Barnes, legislative director of Appalachian Voices. “This simple fix would not cost taxpayers any additional money and would bring new resources to communities hit hard by the decline of coal. Now that the bill has passed the House, the Senate needs to get on board and support this common-sense solution to a decades-long crisis as soon as possible.”

The current AML program allows states to set aside 30% of AML funding each year into accounts that accrue interest and can cover these perpetual costs. But when the infrastructure bill and its sizable AML investments were passed last year, it did not include a similar provision. The STREAM Act addresses that oversight, ensuring the new infusion of funding can be used for long-term AMD treatment. 34 community organizations endorsed the STREAM Act when it was introduced in March. Advocates will now turn their attention to encouraging the Senate to pass the bill with the same bipartisan backing.

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