Monday, August 6, 2018

Congress On Track To Pass RECLAIM Initiative To Clean Up Abandoned Mines, Create Jobs

John Dawes, executive director of the Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds Monday said  he is heartened by Congress’ support for funding for a federal program that supports cleanup project in coal communities.
“We are very glad to see that the House approved $30 million and the Senate approved $25 million in appropriations to fund PILOT programs that both clean up abandoned mine land and mine polluted streams. These projects specifically put the land and water back to productive use, creating jobs and promoting economic development,” he said. “As market forces cause coal mines and coal-fired power plants to shut down, this funding serves as a lifeline for the hardest hit communities.”
“The bad news is that we have the most abandoned mine sites in the nation, and cleaning up all of our abandoned mine land and polluted water will cost an estimated $15 billion. The good news is that the Pennsylvania Bureau of Abandoned Mine Remediation (BAMR) leads the nation in tackling this problem,” he continued. “The Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds is there to support cleanup efforts on a site-specific, local level, creating the public/private partnerships that result in usable land and clean water and quality of life improvements in the coal regions of Pennsylvania.”
If finally passed by Congress and signed by the President, it will mark the fourth year of funding for these PILOT programs that demonstrate how mine reclamation benefits workers and the economy in the coalfields.
Pennsylvania has received $55 million for 30 of these projects, and $25 million more was approved last year. These projects include:
-- Ehrenfeld in Cambria County, laid-off coal workers have removed a mountain of coal waste that loomed over the town;
-- Carbondale, Susquehanna County workers have put out a stubborn mine fire; and
-- 160 households in Rayburn Township, Armstrong County were provided with clean drinking water for the first time.
The RECLAIM Act, which is also pending in Congress, would provide about $258 million over five years from the Abandoned Mine Land Fund for similar projects that accelerate job creation and spur economic development.
Differences between the U.S. House and Senate versions of the bills will be negotiated by a conference committee.
“We hope to see this legislation get full Congressional approval and President Trump’s signature before the end of the fiscal year in September,” said Dawes. “After the August recess there will be only 11 legislative days, and for the sake of our coal communities our Congressmen must make this a priority.”
For more information on watershed initiatives, visit the Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds website.
(Photo: Ehrenfeld Mine Reclamation Project, Cambria County.)
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