Abandoned mine land legislation hits Senate

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U.S. Senators from Appalachian coal states introduced legislation last week to reauthorize federal funding to reclaim abandoned mine lands across the country.

Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin, of West Virginia, Sherrod Brown, of Ohio, and Bob Casey, of Pennsylvania, along with Virginia’s Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, introduced the Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation Fee Extension Act and Revitalizing the Economy of Coal Communities by Leveraging Local Activities and Investing More, or RECLAIM Act, on April 29.

“For generations, West Virginia coal miners have made tremendous sacrifices and done the heavy lifting that powered our nation to greatness,” Manchin, who is also chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said in a video announcement of the bills. “Both the RECLAIM Act and the Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation Fee Extension Act are much needed investments in coal communities.

The same legislation was introduced in the House earlier in the spring.

Support for the Abandoned Mine Land Trust Fund is set to expire in September, unless Congress votes to renew it. The Abandoned Mine Land Fee Extension Act of 2021 will extend funding for the program for another 15 years.

This RECLAIM ACT would release about $1 billion already collected by the Abandoned Mine Land fund to provide support for economic revitalization and development in economically distressed mining communities through reclamation efforts. 

Background

The Abandoned Mine Land Trust Fund was established in 1977 by the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act. It’s funded by a fee collected on all coal produced in the U.S. The legislation would keep the fees at current levels of 28 cents per ton on surface mined coal and 12 cents per ton on deep-mined coal.

Federal Abandoned Mine Land funding closed more than 45,000 mine shafts and openings, eliminated 990 miles of highwalls and restored more than 52,000 acres of streams and land. However, there is still about $10 billion in work left to be done nationwide, according to the Department of the Interior. Some groups estimate the cost and number of mine land that needs to be reclaimed is much higher than that.

Casey said, in a statement announcing the legislation, that about one-third of the country’s abandoned mine lands are in Pennsylvania. 

The RECLAIM Act would clean up abandoned mine land in towns that have been impacted by the loss or reduction in mining activity, with the goal of reusing that land for economic development opportunities.

Related content:

Town hall showcases opportunities for reclaimed mine land

Pa. congressmen lead effort to fund mine reclamation efforts

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