In the latest example of the non-partisan nature of restoring natural resources (as originally documented in The Restoration Economy, and most recently in RECONOMICS), on February 6, 2020, U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt announced the availability of Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 Abandoned Mine Land (AML) Reclamation grants through the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE).
“AML grants provide states, tribes and local partners with important resources to reclaim lands and waters impacted by abandoned mines, restoring the promise of the outdoors for hardworking Americans in coal country,” said Secretary Bernhardt.
A total of $170.9 million in grants will be provided this year for states and tribes to reclaim and repurpose abandoned coal lands.
OSMRE provides AML grants to the 25 coal-producing states and three tribes based on a congressionally mandated formula that evaluates past and current coal production by these entities.
“AML reclamation grants help diversify West Virginia’s economy by cleaning up old mine lands for new development,” said U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (WV). “They help keep lands and waters clean and enable the ability to reuse land for community benefit. I’m grateful this funding is coming to our state, and I’m excited to see continued economic growth in coal country.”
Each year, after the distribution is announced, eligible states and tribes apply for annual reclamation grants to access money in their allocations. OSMRE evaluates and verifies the requests and makes the award amounts available.
The AML Grants are funded in part by a fee collected on all coal produced in the United States. Under the AML Reclamation Program, OSMRE has distributed billions in grants to states and tribes.
The funds have directly contributed to AML Reclamation Program achievements including the closure of over 45,000 abandoned underground mine shafts and openings, the elimination of over 960 miles of dangerous highwalls and the restoration of over 850,000 acres of clogged streams and land.
OSMRE and its state and tribal partners have worked for more than 42 years to address the physical hazards posed by lands and waters mined and abandoned or left inadequately restored before 1977 when the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) was enacted.
“Pennsylvania has more unreclaimed mine sites than any other state, and there are more than 300 in my district alone,” said U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright (PA). “Cleaning up these dangerous sites is a top priority for us in Northeastern Pennsylvania, but we need federal help to get it done. That’s why I’ve been a strong advocate for this program, and why I’m fighting to ensure the AML Trust Fund remains active for years to come. These grants will help our local governments clean up toxic mine drainage, restore blighted areas, and create jobs and economic opportunities on these previously unusable lands.”
WHAT OTHER STATE LEADERS ARE SAYING ABOUT THE PROGRAM
“I’m pleased we’ve caught up on abandoned mine land (AML) payments to Wyoming. Washington is finally living up to its obligation to the people of our state,” said U.S. Sen. John Barrasso (WY). “Even while facing challenging conditions, Wyoming coal is still dominating national production. Our state continues to reclaim all abandoned mine sites, and employs innovative techniques to maximize the ecological health of these sites.”
“I am pleased West Virginia will receive $22 million dollars to reclaim abandoned mine lands (AML). These grants, which are financed by fees paid by coal companies, go directly towards addressing the environmental legacy of the coal mining industry,” said U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (WV). “These funds make West Virginia safer and healthier. I thank Secretary Bernhardt and Lanny Erdos for recognizing the necessity of this program. Additionally, the AML fee collection authority is set to expire in 2021, and its extension remains one of my top priorities.”
“The Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement has worked diligently for more than four decades to address the hazards of abandoned mine land across the country,” said U.S. Rep. Andy Barr (KY). “I voted in favor of this funding in Congress as it will aid in giving communities damaged by the loss of coal production a fresh start. The $11 million allocated to Kentucky today will be used for reclaiming and repurposing land in the Sixth District and across the Commonwealth.”
“It’s important for historically strong coal producing states like Ohio to restore – and in many cases, improve – the land used to mine for energy resources prior to SMCRA being implemented. These grants will help,” said U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson (OH). “Thank you to Secretary Bernhardt and his team for continuing to look out for Coal Country.”
“West Virginia’s coal industry is a cornerstone of our history, our heritage, and our economy. It is important that we prioritize innovation in our mines, even at the end of their intended use,” said U.S. Rep. Carol Miller (WV). “This funding ensures abandoned mine land is refurbished to better our coal communities by bringing new business opportunities to our state, creating good-paying jobs, and encouraging conservation in the region.”
“I am pleased to hear that West Virginia will receive more funding to do important reclamation work on AML sites across our state,” said U.S. Rep. Alex Mooney (WV). “The reclamation funds will keep West Virginia ‘Wild and Wonderful’ by ensuring our streams and rivers are clean and any abandoned mine shafts are safely and properly closed.”
“These grants help bring our coalfields full circle by providing funds to rehabilitate the same land that generated affordable power and infused our economy through coal mining for generations,” said U.S. Rep. Hall Rogers (KY). “Coupled with the AML Pilot Grants since 2016, we are covering more ground faster in Kentucky than ever before. It is vital that we revive our environment and our economy in coal country for future generations.”
Photo of open pit brown coal mine via Pixabay.