Press Release

Senate passes amended STREAM Act and sends it back to House

Legislation will allow states to put infrastructure money for abandoned mine clean up in interest-bearing accounts to fund ongoing treatment of acid mine drainage

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 16, 2022

CONTACT
Chelsea Barnes, (614) 205-6424, chelsea@appvoices.org
Dan Radmacher, (540) 798-6683, dan@appvoices.org

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Last night, by unanimous consent, the U.S. Senate passed the Safeguarding Treatment for the Restoration of Ecosystems from Abandoned Mines Act that will ensure that billions of dollars in new money for abandoned coal mine cleanup can be used for ongoing acid mine drainage treatment. The STREAM Act, which was amended to also address mine fires and subsidence issues, now goes back to the U.S. House of Representatives.

“We applaud Sens. Casey and Braun for their persistence in fighting for clean water for coal mining communities,” said Chelsea Barnes, Legislative Director at Appalachian Voices. “With only a few remaining days in the session, we urge the House of Representatives to take up consideration of the Senate amendments immediately and send the STREAM Act to President Biden’s desk before the end of the year.”

The STREAM Act was introduced with bipartisan support in the House in March by Reps. Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.) and David McKinley (R-W.Va.) and in the Senate by Sens. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Mike Braun (R-Ind.). The bill addresses a technical issue in the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).

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 in coalfield rivers and creeks. Set-aside accounts are necessary because of the perpetual nature of acid mine drainage. The STREAM Act provides a fix to that issue, ensuring states can use these landmark investments for the perpetual treatment that acid mine drainage from coal mining requires.

“We’ve worked for many years to restore water quality to polluted tributaries in West Virginia, but there’s still a lot of work to be done.” said Amanda Pitzer, Director at Friends of the Cheat in West Virginia. “We are thankful to Sens. Manchin and Capito for their leadership in getting this bill over the finish line. With the passage of STREAM, we have the potential to expand paddling, fishing, and swimming throughout the Cheat River watershed. With continued support of the Abandoned Mine Land fund and the ability for our states to put money in the acid mine drainage set aside account, we’re ready to expand our work to clean up our watersheds, put people back to work through water treatment and project construction, and, ultimately, bring more people back to the river.”

The Senate’s addition to the bill also allows the new IIJA funds to be put in set-aside accounts for states and tribes to address mine fires or subsidence issues. While these abandoned mine land features do not require long-term treatment facilities like acid mine drainage, state agencies advocated for the flexibility to use set-aside accounts to address mine fires and subsidence issues due to the unpredictable nature of the costs associated with abatement.

“A large number of acid mine drainage discharges in Pennsylvania are still in need of treatment,” said Bobby Hughes, Director at Eastern Pennsylvania Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation. “These funds are necessary to help states and community groups ensure that the appropriate costs are considered during the planning, design and construction of projects, as well as that funds exist for the long-term operation, maintenance and repairs to AMD Treatment systems. Further, the addition of language to address mine fires is helpful for Pennsylvania. Mine fires are very costly projects; my hope is that expanded attention for mine fires can help Pennsylvania address this issue. More robust funding to address mine fires across the country could reduce the amount of greenhouse gasses that are being emitted and make communities safer.”

“The history of coal mining in Illinois has long impacted our water, land and communities, and we are excited for the potential to treat acid mine drainage now that funding is finally available,” said Amanda Pankau, Senior Energy Campaign Coordinator, Prairie Rivers Network. “We are thankful to Sen. Durbin for his co-sponsorship and to Senator Duckworth for voting to pass the STREAM Act to protect our communities and restore our waterways.”

“Pollution from acid mine drainage is prevalent in my community and across the coalfields of Tennessee. I applaud Sens. Blackburn and Hagerty for voting to pass the STREAM Act.” said April Jarocki, Board Vice President, Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment. “Cleaning up abandoned coal mines including acid mine drainage will help remove barriers to economic development and support communities in building safe and healthy places to live.”

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.

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