Congress Eyeing Legislation to Reclaim Abandoned Mine Sites

With coal production decreasing, so too are fees mine operators pay to cover the costs of remediating abandoned mines. That work may cost $11 billion, but some advocates say that estimate is on the low end. The Interior Department’s AML fund has just over $2 billion unappropriated cash.

Rep. Darin LaHood (R-Ill.) has introduced the “Community Reclamation Partnerships Act” which remove obstacles for non-governmental groups to help clean up abandoned mine pollution. Under H.R. 1146, good Samaritans could participate in reclamation work without taking on Clean Water Act liabilities.

Greg Conrad, former executive director of the Interstate Mining Compact Commission, said the legislation is needed because acid mine drainage can be low on the priority list of projects to receive funding.

The bill has passed the House twice in previous sessions, but there could be more urgency in the Senate this time around because the AML fee levied on each ton of coal produced is expiring on Sept. 30

Citizens’ groups have also lobbied to pass the “RECLAIM Act,” a bill sponsored by Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.) in the last Congress that would link reclamation work to economic development.
Steve Moyer, vice president for government affairs at Trout Unlimited, said AML reauthorization, the good Samaritan bill and the RECLAIM Act could pass together. They’d go well together in our view. It’s been through the House twice now so we feel like it’s on a good path to be included,” Moyer said.

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