Millions of Americans nationwide live within just one mile of an abandoned coal mine or orphaned oil and gas well. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s $16 billion historic investment in remediating legacy pollution and restoring damaged sites is creating new opportunities for economic revitalization across the country.
On October 20, 2022, Kentucky leaders celebrated the news that the state had won a $74,252,680 investment from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to create good-paying restoration economy (often union) jobs and catalyze economic opportunity by reclaiming and restoring abandoned mine lands (AML) in the state.
This is the first award from the $725 million in Fiscal Year 2022 funding the Department of the Interior has made available to 22 states and the Navajo Nation this year. Additional awards will be made to eligible entities on a rolling basis as they apply.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law allocates a total of $11.3 billion in AML funding over 15 years, facilitated by the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE).
This historic funding is expected to address the vast majority of inventoried abandoned coal mine lands in this country, which will help communities eliminate dangerous environmental conditions and pollution caused by past coal mining.
“I know first-hand what it looks like to live near a toxic, abandoned mine. In communities like my Pueblo of Laguna, people deal with the serious risks to our environment and our health that these legacy pollution sites pose,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland.
“We have a once-in-a-generation investment to address these sites with an eye toward marginalized communities. Thanks to President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, I believe the reclamation landscape of tomorrow presents endless opportunities for innovation, efficiency and partnership,” she added.
The announcement came during the Interior Department’s Legacy Pollution Week, a chance to honor the work that has been done and the opportunities ahead. Secretary Haaland visited Pineville and Lexington to see remediated sites, meet with state officials, and host a roundtable with labor leaders, nonprofit organizations and local representatives.
AML reclamation projects support vitally needed jobs for coal communities by investing in 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 reclamation projects also enable economic revitalization by reclaiming hazardous land for recreational facilities and other economic redevelopment uses like advanced manufacturing and renewable energy deployment. As required by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, funding will prioritize projects that employ dislocated coal industry workers.
AML funding will enable states to remediate abandoned mines that are leaking methane – a key contributor to climate change. This comes as part of the Biden-Harris administration’s unprecedented investments in coal, oil and gas and power plant communities.
This effort also advances the President’s Justice40 Initiative which commits to delivering 40% of the benefits of certain climate and clean energy investments to disadvantaged communities.
As required by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, allocations are determined based on the number of tons of coal historically produced in each state or on Indian lands before August 3, 1977, when the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (SMCRA) was enacted.
States are guaranteed at least $20 million over the 15-year life of the program if their inventory of AML sites would cost more than $20 million to address. As state AML inventories are updated, future distributions will change.
These investments supplement traditional annual AML grants, which are funded by coal operators and ensured to be provided through 2034 thanks to language in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. 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.
Photo of abandoned mine via Adobe Stock.