On March 1, 2021, as part of the Biden-Harris administration’s commitment to helping stabilize communities hit hardest by the decrease in demand for coal energy, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced the availability of more than $260 million for states and Tribes to support reclamation efforts in fiscal year 2021.
More than $152.22 million is now available through the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act’s (SMCRA) Abandoned Mine Land (AML) grant program. The Department is also disbursing $115 million through the Abandoned Mine Land Economic Revitalization (AMLER) grant program.
“The Abandoned Mine Land grant programs provide an important opportunity to revitalize local economies, support jobs, and address environmental impacts to communities from these legacy developments,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary – Land and Minerals Management Laura Daniel Davis.
“The job of cleaning up our lands and waters and revitalizing our communities doesn’t end with this round of grant announcements — or the next. We look forward to working with Congress to ensure that we can make the needed investments to clean up abandoned mines, as well as orphan oil and gas wells, across the country,” she added.
Interior’s Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) provides AML grants to the 25 coal-producing states and three Tribal AML Reclamation Programs according to a congressionally mandated formula. Based on past and current coal production, and funded in part by a fee collected on all coal produced in the United States, the AML grants help the eligible states and Tribes to eliminate dangerous conditions and pollution caused by past coal mining.
The authority to collect AML Reclamation fees is slated to expire September 30, 2021, unless it is reauthorized by Congress, as it was in 2006.
OSMRE also manages the AMLER program, which provides grants to the six states and three Tribes with the greatest amount of unfunded abandoned mine land problems for projects that leverage mine land reclamation with local economic development. This year’s grantees are: Alabama ($10 million), Kentucky ($10 million), Ohio ($25 million), Pennsylvania ($25 million), Virginia ($10 million), and West Virginia ($25 million), and $3.33 million each to the Crow Tribe, the Hopi Tribe, and the Navajo Nation.
Under the AML reclamation program, OSMRE has provided more than $8 billion to reclaim lands and waters that were mined or affected by mining prior to 1977, when SMCRA was enacted by Congress. AML grants support vitally needed jobs for coal communities by funding projects that close dangerous mine shafts, reclaim unstable slopes, improve water quality by treating acid mine drainage, and restore water supplies damaged by mining.
AML funding has directly resulted in the closure of over 45,000 abandoned underground mine shafts and openings, the elimination of over 990 miles of dangerous highwalls, and the restoration of over 52,000 acres of clogged streams and land. Even with the previous work completed, there remains over $10 billion worth of work needed to reclaim eligible coal AML sites.
“It cannot be forgotten that West Virginia coal miners powered our country to greatness, and I am pleased that West Virginia will receive $18.9 million to reclaim abandoned mine lands in those coal communities. While over $8 billion has been disbursed to states for AML reclamation projects since the passage of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977, there is still much more work to be done to clean up damage to the land and water in those communities. I will be reintroducing legislation to extend the AML fee, which is currently set to expire in September, to ensure this important reclamation work can continue without interruption,” said Senator Joe Manchin, Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
“I am also glad that West Virginia will receive $25 million through the AML Economic Revitalization grant program, which provides additional funding for economic development projects on abandoned mind lands. I thank President Biden for his strong support for these much-needed programs and I look forward to continuing to work closely together to ensure these hardworking communities are protected and given new economic opportunities,” he continued.
Following the announcement of the annual AML grant distribution, eligible states and Tribes apply for grants to access money in their allocations.
FY 2021 AML Reclamation funding going to states/tribes:
- Alabama: $2,829,000
- Alaska: $2,829,000
- Arkansas: $2,829,000
- Colorado: $2,829,000
- Illinois: $9,699,476
- Indiana: $4,416,248
- Iowa: $2,829,000
- Kansas: $2,829,000
- Kentucky: $9,269,507
- Louisiana: $34,281
- Maryland: $2,829,000
- Mississippi: $99,445
- Missouri: $2,829,000
- Montana: $2,913,332
- New Mexico: $2,829,000
- North Dakota: $2,829,000
- Ohio: $5,043,613
- Oklahoma: $2,829,000
- Pennsylvania: $27,403,916
- Tennessee: $2,829,000
- Texas: $775,920
- Utah: $2,829,000
- Virginia: $3,025,175
- West Virginia: $18,913,351
- Wyoming: $32,975,498
- Crow Tribe: $282,539
- Hopi Tribe: $0*
- Navajo Nation: $591,928
- National Total: $152,221,229**
Photo courtesy of West Virginia Regional History Center.