Cartwright Bill to Clean Up Abandoned Coal Mines Approved by Committee, Advances to House Floor
Washington, DC – Today, the House Committee on Natural Resources approved the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act Amendments of 2019 (H.R. 4248), legislation authored by U.S. Representative Matt Cartwright (PA-08) to ensure the clean-up of dangerous abandoned mine sites across the U.S. can continue. The committee’s vote clears the way for this legislation to be considered on the House floor.
“I have seen firsthand the risks that abandoned mines pose to our community health, our safety, and our economy. We can’t afford for efforts to clean up these dangerous sites to stall,” said Rep. Cartwright. “This bipartisan bill will not only protect the people living near abandoned mines in Northeastern Pennsylvania and across the country; it will also help turn these lands into economic opportunities that lead to new jobs and growth.”
H.R. 4248 would reauthorize the Abandoned Mine Land (AML) Trust Fund, which allows states to collect small fees from active coal mine operators in order to pay for abandoned mine reclamation. The fund is due to expire in September 2021, but it is estimated that the cost to reclaim the remaining high priority abandoned mines across the country will exceed $10 billion. In Pennsylvania’s Eighth District, where there are more than 300 unreclaimed mine sites, it is expected to cost over $114 million.
Ensuring the AML trust fund remains active will help states continue to protect their communities from the health, safety and environmental risks posed by abandoned mines, including by cleaning up toxic acid mine drainage, closing open shafts, and disposing of unattended explosives.
Specifically, this legislation would extend states’ authority to collect fees at current levels for 15 years. It would also:
- expand funding for states that have not been certified for reclaiming high-priority coal AML areas;
- provide for the delegation of emergency AML programs to states;
- and reimburse states for AML fees that were sequestered since Fiscal Year 2013.