Congressional Hearing on Cartwright Bill to Clean Up Abandoned Coal Mines Puts Spotlight on PA
Washington, DC – On November 14, the House Committee on Natural Resources’ Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources held a hearing on Representative Matt Cartwright’s (PA-08) Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act Amendments of 2019 (H.R. 4248). This legislation would reauthorize the Abandoned Mine Land (AML) Trust Fund and enable states to continue restoring polluted and dangerous mining sites and spur economic development in depressed former coal communities.
Given that millions of Pennsylvanians live less than a mile from a dangerous abandoned mine, Rep. Cartwright invited two Pennsylvania residents who work on this issue to Washington, D.C., to testify at the hearing.
One of the witnesses was Robert Hughes, Executive Director of the Eastern Pennsylvania Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation (EPCAMR) and an Eighth District resident. Hughes explained that water pollution and other hazards posed by abandoned mines in the eastern part of the state harm nearby families and businesses as well as the surrounding environment. He also explained how cleaning up these hazardous sites improves health and safety while creating new jobs and business opportunities.
Mr. John Stefanko, Deputy Secretary of the Office of Active and Abandoned Mine Operations in the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, also testified. Stefanko highlighted that extending funding for the AML Trust Fund is critical to Pennsylvania’s ongoing clean-up efforts and, as a representative of the National Association of Abandoned Mine Programs, noted that all 34 States are unified in support of this legislation.
A video of the hearing can be viewed here.
A law passed by Congress in 1977 established the AML Trust Fund. Since that time, the program has eliminated over 46,000 open mine portals, and restored water supplies to countless residents of coalfield communities, all while creating jobs and economic opportunities. However, with its expiration fast approaching, estimates show it will cost at least $10 billion to reclaim the remaining high priority abandoned mines across the country. Rep. Cartwright’s legislation addresses this issue by reauthorizing the AML Trust Fund and extending fee collection authority at current levels for 15 years.
“Northeastern Pennsylvania residents live with the harmful impact of abandoned mines every day,” Rep. Cartwright said. “These hazardous sites pose risks to our health, our safety, our environment, and our economy. By making sure the urgent work of cleaning up these sites can continue for years to come, this bipartisan, common-sense proposal will create jobs, protect the environment, and save lives.