Press Release

Community advocates in MD, OH and VA applaud new abandoned mine clean-up investments, push for solution to tackle acid mine drainage crisis

Biden administration announces $74 million in three states to reclaim abandoned mines, but STREAM Act is needed to ensure comprehensive solutions

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 26, 2022

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

APPALACHIA — Today, the Biden-Harris administration announced the release of $74 million in funds for abandoned mine land clean up in Maryland, Ohio and Virginia. Virginia will receive $22.7 million, while Ohio will get $46.4 million in investments and $4.8 million will head to Maryland. The funding comes from the new bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act signed by President Joe Biden last year.

“We are thrilled to see this funding reach Southwest Virginia communities where abandoned coal mines have been threatening communities and impeding economic development for decades,” said Chelsea Barnes, Legislative Director for Appalachian Voices. “These investments are essential for protecting homes, property and lives while creating new economic opportunities cleaning up legacy pollution. This is just the beginning, as the bipartisan infrastructure law will provide unprecedented levels of funding for coal-impacted states for the next 15 years, creating thousands of jobs in hard-hit communities. We applaud Sens. Warner, Kaine, Manchin and Booker for their leadership on this issue.”

This new investment represents a major victory for advocates from coal communities who have been fighting for years to spur economic development in the places they live and work through coal mine reclamation. AML sites pose health and safety risks to residents and stand as barriers to economic growth. These crucial infrastructure projects will put people to work repairing land and waterways damaged by mining, sealing and filling abandoned mine entries, and developing erosion prevention measures to prevent dangerous land and mudslides.

Overall, the bipartisan infrastructure law secured a total of $11.3 billion in Abandoned Mine Land funding over 15 years. This year, $725 million will be distributed to 22 states and the Navajo Nation. This level of AML funding represents a massive increase compared to the current annual distribution for AML reclamation and restoration. Just over $6 billion in total grant distributions have been made from the AML program in the last 40 years.

However, the bipartisan infrastructure law does not contain the longstanding provision in the AML program that ensures this new funding can be put in the set-aside accounts needed for the long-term treatment of acid mine drainage. Acid mine drainage disrupts aquatic ecosystems, undermines recreational potential, and can increase water treatment costs. Because acid mine drainage pollution is perpetual, remediation requires long-term funding. Under the existing Abandoned Mine Lands Program, states and tribes can set aside up to 30% of their AML allocations for such funding mechanisms. The bipartisan infrastructure law does not allow such set-asides. Legislation introduced in Congress, the STREAM Act, is the legislative fix necessary to allow these important long-term investments. The popular bipartisan bill passed the U.S. House on a 391-9 vote this summer, and awaits action in the U.S. Senate.

“The North Branch Potomac has been plagued by acid mine drainage impacts for decades and continues to this day,” said Brent Walls, Upper Potomac Riverkeeper of the Potomac Riverkeeper Network. “Although progress has been made in parts of the watershed in Maryland and West Virginia, it is vital that funding continues to help state and local programs implement new projects and maintain existing treatment systems. Without this money, the North Branch Potomac would revert back to a virtually lifeless stream.”

“We are incredibly excited to see this funding come through for Ohio, Maryland, and Virginia communities, though it is troubling to note that these funds will not be able to be used for long term acid mine drainage treatment,” said Dana Kuhnline, Campaign Director for ReImagine Appalachia. “We are hopeful that our senators will follow the House in swiftly passing the STREAM Act to maximize the impact these funds will have for communities burdened by streams running orange with acid mine drainage.”

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