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Cartwright, Casey, McKinley Bill to Clean Up Water Pollution from Abandoned Mines Passes Congress

Across PA, 1.4 million people live within one mile of an abandoned mine site STREAM Act would allow PA to set aside abandoned land mine funding from infrastructure law to treat acid mine drainage in water sources After passing both houses of Congress, bill heads to President Biden’s desk

Washington, D.C. - Today, U.S. Representatives Matt Cartwright (D-PA-8) U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) and David McKinley (R-WV-1) announced passage of the Safeguarding Treatment for the Restoration of Ecosystems from Abandoned Mines (STREAM) Act via the Fiscal Year 2023 spending bill. The STREAM Act now goes to the President’s desk to be signed into law.

Acid mine drainage (AMD)—the release of highly acidic water from abandoned mines—is one of the largest sources of water pollution throughout the country and threatens the health and safety of Americans living near abandoned mine lands. This legislation would allow states and tribes to set aside a portion of the abandoned mine land funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) to treat AMD specifically, reducing long-term water pollution and investing in the economic health of their communities.

“Acid mine drainage continues to pose serious health risks and impedes economic development in Northeastern Pennsylvania communities with a history of coal mining,” said Rep. Matt Cartwright, (PA-08). “The unprecedented levels of funding in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, maximized by The STREAM ACT, will help restore safe drinking water, bring impaired ecosystems back to life and, in the process, revive economic and recreational opportunities by eliminating our legacy coal pollution.”

“Too many Pennsylvanians have suffered from the effects of acid mine drainage for decades. The STREAM Act builds on the success of the infrastructure law and provides financial certainty to Pennsylvania communities looking to clean up water pollution from acid mine drainage. Passing the STREAM Act will improve property values, restore fishing and recreation opportunities, create long-term jobs, and support local economies that rely on a clean water supply,” said Senator Casey.

“Across West Virginia, more than 1,500 miles of rivers and streams have been polluted by acid mine drainage from abandoned mines. The STREAM Act allows West Virginia and other coal-producing states to take full advantage of the recent historic increase in Abandoned Mine Land funding to clean up these waterways. West Virginians deserve to enjoy the natural beauty of our state, including clean water for drinking, fishing and recreation. We are pleased this provision will be signed into law,” said Representative McKinley.

The Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) established the Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation Program, which provides annual grants to states to address the environmental and public health hazards associated with abandoned mine lands (AML). Under the SMCRA, states are authorized to set aside up to 30 percent of their annual AML grant to accrue interest and cover the long-term costs of acid mine drainage treatment. Recognizing the need for further financial support for AML reclamation, IIJA provides an additional $11.3 billion for the AML Trust Fund. Pennsylvania is eligible to receive more than $3 billion over the next fifteen years for AML clean-up and has already received $270 million in 2022. However, the infrastructure law does not allow the same kind of set-aside provision for AMD treatment as the AML Reclamation Program. Without this authority to set aside a portion of the additional funding, states will not be able to access the resources they need to mitigate the damage from acid mine drainage.

The STREAM Act would authorize states to set aside up to 30 percent of their annual AML grant from the infrastructure law into an account for treatment of acid mine drainage and require annual reporting on the use and amount of funds set aside for acid mine drainage abatement.

Read more about the STREAM Act here.