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Rep. Cartwright Renews Push for Reclaiming Abandoned Mine Lands to Create Jobs and Protect Environment

Eighth Congressional District, PA – Today, U.S. Representative Matt Cartwright (D-PA-08) reintroduced two pieces of legislation to reauthorize and accelerate federal funding to reclaim abandoned mine lands in Northeastern Pennsylvania and across America. In a press conference with U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-PA-15) and Appalachian Region advocates, Rep. Cartwright said these two bills would help create good jobs, pave the way for new economic development and clean up waterways poisoned by toxic mine drainage.

Rep. Cartwright introduced the Abandoned Mine Land Reauthorization Act with Rep. Thompson, which reauthorizes the Abandoned Mine Land Trust Fund and expands the payments from the fund for abandoned coal mine cleanups.

He also reintroduced the Revitalizing the Economy of Coal Communities by Leveraging Local Activities and Investing More (RECLAIM) Act with U.S. Rep Hal Rogers (R-KY-05). This bill accelerates the release of about $1 billion in funds already collected for the Abandoned Mine Land Trust Fund to provide support for economic revitalization, diversification and development in economically distressed mining communities through the reclamation and restoration of land and water resources adversely affected by coal mining. Of these funds, Pennsylvania would receive over $300 million.

Together, the AML Reauthorization Act and RECLAIM Act unlock, then accelerate resources to communities that have been scarred by coal mining, allowing them to repurpose hazardous mining sites into opportunities for job creation and economic growth.

“I’m proud to lead the charge to continue and accelerate federal investment in reclaiming abandoned mine lands in Northeastern Pennsylvania and across the country. These resources have helped our area’s environment and economy over the years, but we still have over 300 dangerous and blighted abandoned mine sites that still need to be reclaimed,” said Rep. Cartwright. “Ensuring this work can continue will fuel the creation of good paying jobs and pave the way for new economic opportunities, while revitalizing our lands and cleaning up our waterways.”

“Coal powered the United States’ rise to a global superpower, fueled victory in two world wars and brought our nation into the modern area,” said Rep. Thompson. “Despite considerable progress on environmental restoration, the need to clear up abandoned coal mines remains. Reauthorizing the AML fund will assist in cleaning up those sites and have the added benefit of spurring economic development in communities who have been impacted by mine closures. My district has the most abandoned coal mines in the nation, and I’m pleased to join my colleague, Mr. Cartwright, to address this issue that is so important to the Commonwealth.”

“We have an excellent window of opportunity right now to reshape regional economies that will reclaim our abandoned mine lands, help to clean up our polluted waterways, and train workers who are in need of employment,” said Bobby Hughes, Executive Director of Eastern Pennsylvania Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation (EPCAMR). “Clean energy alternative projects like the development of community solar systems, pump hydro storage, and the creation of geothermal mine pool systems to generate electricity, for example, are just a few paths forward that can allow us to capitalize on our blighted landscapes and waterways we have had to live with for decades. Transitioning from the fossil fuel industry to create job opportunities will help to restore the legacy of our country's abandoned mines.”

“As we grow the clean economy, it is imperative that we ensure that no worker or community is left behind. The reintroduction of the RECLAIM Act and a bill reauthorizing the Abandoned Mine Lands (AML) reclamation fee is a win for communities hurt by America’s energy transition, a win for workers, and a win for the environment,” said Jason Walsh, Executive Director of the BlueGreen Alliance. “Reclaiming abandoned mine lands—and doing so in ways that will reinvigorate and diversify the economies of local communities—means cleaner air and water and the creation of good jobs.”

The AML Trust Fund was established through the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (SMCRA) and is set to expire in September 2021. The AML Trust Fund has helped eliminate over 46,000 open mine portals and restored water supplies to countless residents of coalfield communities, all while creating jobs and economic opportunities. However, it is estimated that it will cost at least $10 billion to reclaim the remaining high priority AML sites across the country – work that could go unfinished if this successful initiative is not reauthorized.

A section-by-section summary of the Abandoned Mine Land Reauthorization Act can be found HERE. The bill text can be found HERE.

A section-by-section summary of the RECLAIM Act can be found HERE. The bill text can be found HERE.

This legislation is also endorsed by Appalachian Citizens' Law Center, Appalachian Voices, Appalshop, Inc., BlueGreen Alliance, Center for Coalfield Justice, Citizens' Climate Lobby, Climate Institute, Eastern PA Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation (EPCAMR), Faith in Place Action Fund, Friends For Environmental Justice, Grow Gillespie, Kentuckians For The Commonwealth, Kentucky Interfaith Power & Light, Kentucky Resources Council, Inc., Keystone Research Center, Mountain Association, National Wildlife Federation, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, WV Interfaith Power and Light, PennFuture, Policy Matters Ohio, Powder River Basin Resource Council, Prairie Rivers Network, Sierra Club, Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment (SOCM), The Alliance for Appalachia, The Wilderness Society, Union of Concerned Scientists, West Virginia Rivers Coalition, Western Colorado Alliance and Western Organization of Resource Councils.

The AML Reauthorization Act is co-sponsored by U.S. Reps. Glenn Thompson (R-PA-15), Dan Meuser (R-PA-09), Conor Lamb (D-PA-17), Guy Reschenthaler (R-PA-14), Brendan Boyle (D-PA-02), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA-47), Markwayne Mullin (R-OK-02), Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA-06), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ-03) and Jared Huffman (D-CA-02).

The RECLAIM Act is co-sponsored by U.S. Reps. Hal Rogers (R-KY-05), Donald Beyer (D-VA-08), Glenn Thompson (R-PA-15), Bill Foster (D-IL-11), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR-03), John Yarmuth (D-KY-03), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ-03), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA-01), Diana DeGette (D-CO-01), Julia Brownley (D-CA-26), Conor Lamb (D-PA-17), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC-At Large), Ruben Gallego (D-AZ-07), Gerald Connolly (D-VA-11), Ed Case (D-HI-01), Shelia Jackson Lee (D-TX-18), David McKinley (R-WV-01), Cynthia Axne (D-IA-03), Cheri Bustos (D-IL-17), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA-47), Brendan Boyle (D-PA-02), Janice Schakowsky (D-IL-09), Bill Johnson (R-OH-06), Mike Quigley (D-IL-05), Susan Wild (D-PA-07), Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA-06), Terri Sewell (D-AL-07), Albio Sires (D-NJ-08), Steve Cohen (D-TN-09), Dan Meuser (R-PA-09) and Jamaal Bowman (D-NY-16).