Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Act Now: PA Congressmen Absent From Federal Abandoned Mine Reclamation Funding Debate

The Foundation For PA Watersheds Wednesday called on Pennsylvanians to contact their member of Congress and urge them to support federal legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives to increase funding for mine reclamation projects that will lead to economic development in coal communities suffering the impacts of the recent downturn in the mining industry.
The legislation has been introduced by Kentucky Congressman Hal Rogers as HR 4456, the Revitalizing the Economy of Coal Communities by Leveraging Local Activities and Investing More Act of 2016 or the RECLAIM Act of 2016.
This legislation would greatly benefit Pennsylvania by providing $67.8 million a year for five years to do abandoned mine reclamation projects that have local economic development benefits.
Unfortunately, Pennsylvania’s Congressional delegation has been largely absent from the debate.
Pennsylvania is presented with an exceptional opportunity in HR 4456, but the Pennsylvania delegation must act!
In 2006, the federal Abandoned Mine Lands Fund and the per ton reclamation fee that provides revenue to the Fund was reauthorized. This per ton fee on coal was to provide $1.4 billion to the Commonwealth over 15 years for pre-1977 mine reclamation.
With declining coal production in recent years, the federal Abandoned Mine Lands Fund payments to Pennsylvania have also decreased.
In 2006, projections were that Pennsylvania would receive more than $140 million in 2019 to address health and safety hazards associated with pre-regulated mining.
According to a 2003 report by the federal Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, more than 1.6 million Pennsylvanians lived within one mile of an abandoned mine land feature.
The Department of Environmental Protection reports abandoned mine sites, mine discharges and dangerous highwalls impact 43 of the state’s 67 counties.  A total of about $1 billion is needed to cleanup this legacy of past mining.
After the Congress act to sequester (cut) federal funding across-the-board, Pennsylvania received $42 million in 2016-- $40 million less than projected in 2006.
To address the decline in federal AMLF revenues, and to spur economic development in mine-impacted communities, Congress Rogers introduced HR 4456.
The bill would make AMLF monies (not tax money) available to states to promote economic revitalization, diversification, and development in economically distressed communities through the reclamation and restoration of land and water resources adversely affected by coal mining.
The provisions of HR 4456 are similar to a pilot program announced in July by DEP which will use $30 million in federal Abandoned Mine Reclamation Funds to support 14 reclamation projects in 10 counties.
The projects were selected for funding based on their potential to create long-term economic benefits in the coal communities in which they are located.
Click Here for a more detailed Primer on RECLAIM.
Act Now!
Presently, only three Pennsylvania  Congressman, Representative Cartwright, Doyle, and Dent have cosponsored this legislation.
Please contact your Congressman today and urge them to cosponsor HR 4456. Without strong Pennsylvania support this legislation will not pass.
Click Here to find your member of Congress.
(Photo: Sunbeam Tipple Land Reclamation Project, Butler County, Slippery Rock Watershed Coalition.)
Related Stories:
Wolf: $30M Pilot Abandoned Mine Reclamation, Economic Development Program

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