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Yesterday, U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-PA) introduced two bills that would reauthorize, expand, and accelerate funding for the Abandoned Mine Land Trust Fund (AML), which grants money to states and tribes to reclaim former mining lands and use them for job creation and economic growth.
The first bill, the Abandoned Mine Land Reauthorization Act, will extend the collection and disbursement of fees from mining operations to former coal communities for another 15 years.
The Revitalizing the Economy of Coal Communities by Leveraging Local Activities and Investing More (RECLAIM) Act, co-sponsored by U.S. Rep Hal Rogers (R-KY-05), would release $1 billion in already accumulated funds to be granted to former coal communities for mine cleanup and economic revitalization.
Why This Matters: Over the past four years, coal communities were promised by the Trump administration that the coal industry would have a resurgence. Yet these promises weren’t met, mostly because they were impossible to achieve. Coal communities need support to clean up their land and water and to attract good-paying jobs, these bills begin the momentum to achieve this.
Tried and True:Fundamentally, protecting natural resources and the health of Americans is good public and economic policy. The bipartisan nature of these bills proves as much.
The bills will bring relief directly to those communities that need it most–and the program is already working.
Since it was originally introduced, the AML has helped former coal communities across America clean up toxic land and water left behind by mining operations and build new projects on previous mine land, including office parks, tourist attractions, and even solar farms.
In Maryland, a mine that had been leaking toxins into the Potomac for decades was reclaimed with AML funding and cleaned up, opening a door for angling and white-water boating attractions in the region, resulting in an economic impact of $3 million.
In West Virginia, a coal mine was converted into a wind farm which now boasts 158 turbines and produces enough energy to power over 66,000 homes.
In Pennsylvania, reclaimed land was used to build a business park that houses 39 companies employing 4500 people.
“Reclaiming abandoned mine lands—and doing so in ways that will reinvigorate and diversify the economies of local communities—means cleaner air and water and the creation of good jobs,” said Jason Walsh, Executive Director of the BlueGreen Alliance.
Republican Representative Glenn Thompson (R-PA), agrees, “despite considerable progress on environmental restoration, the need to clear up abandoned coal mines remains. Reauthorizing the AML fund will assist in cleaning up those sites and have the added benefit of spurring economic development in communities who have been impacted by mine closures.”
But there’s still work to be done. Thompson’s district has the most abandoned coal mines of any in the nation. Cartwright hopes that by renewing, expanding, and accelerating this crucial funding, those mines will get cleaned up sooner rather than later.
“These resources have helped our area’s environment and economy over the years, but we still have over 300 dangerous and blighted abandoned mine sites that still need to be reclaimed,” he said. “Ensuring this work can continue will fuel the creation of good-paying jobs and pave the way for new economic opportunities, while revitalizing our lands and cleaning up our waterways.”
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