Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Bipartisan RECLAIM Proposal Reintroduced In Congress To Cleanup Abandoned Mine Lands

Monday a bipartisan group of legislators in Washington reintroduced legislation in Congress known as the RECLAIM Act – that would expedite much-needed funding from the Abandoned Mine Land Trust Fund for projects that restore mine-scarred land and enhance local economic development in coal field communities.
The bill-- H.R. 1731 (Rogers-R-KY)-- has a companion in the U.S. Senate S.728 (McConnell-R-KY) in the Senate
The RECLAIM Act follows the successful implementation of the AML Pilot Project that was enacted in the 2016 Omnibus Appropriations bill.
That $90 million pilot – spearheaded in Pennsylvania ($30 million), West Virginia, and Kentucky – provided coal communities with grants to reclaim abandoned mine lands with economic development purposes in mind, create new job opportunities, and stimulate the local economy.
No new revenues are provided by this effort. The funding that would be provided through the RECLAIM Act already exists in the Abandoned Mine Land Trust Fund that was established in 1977 to help states saddled with the legacy of abandoned mine lands and polluted waters.
In Pennsylvania alone, the cost to remediate that legacy exceeds several billion dollars.
Since its adoption, the Trust Fund has leveraged additional funds — by nearly a two to one margin – extraordinary private and public investment within the Commonwealth.
The RECLAIM Act builds on that momentum by accelerating funding out of the Trust Fund and creates a win-win scenario for the Commonwealth by enabling economic development and job growth resulting from remediation.
The PA Environmental Council, the Eastern and Western PA Coalitions for Abandoned Mine Reclamation, the Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds and many other organizations strongly support this legislation. PEC has long been a proponent of continuation of the Trust Fund and its programs.
Members of the PA Coalitions for Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation thanked Congressmen Thompson and Cartwright from Pennsylvania for their support for the federal RECLAIM Act.
“Representative Thompson, whose district contains the largest number of unrestored abandoned mine sites in the nation, knows all too well how these damaged lands hinder economic opportunity in the coal fields,” said John Dawes, executive director of the Foundation for Pennsylvania Watershed. “RECLAIM would put out-of-work coal miners back to work restoring abandoned mine lands and readying them for uses that will attract business and create permanent jobs.”
“We are ready to go, and greatly appreciate Congressman Cartwright’s ongoing support of our work,” said Robert Hughes executive director of the Eastern Pennsylvania Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation (EPCAMR). “EPCAMR and other reclamation-related groups have successfully completed abandoned mine land reclamation and mine drainage cleanup projects for decades. We already have the expertise, partnerships, and a long list of projects ready to be implemented. These projects will improve our region’s economic attractiveness, bring dead acres of land and streams back to life, and create sustainable jobs for those displaced by coal mine and coal-fired power plant closings and coal company bankruptcies. All we need is the boost in funding that RECLAIM would deliver directly to our communities to help us leverage other funds to create a just transition in our under-served coalfields of Pennsylvania. Our region and local economies are hurting and are in need of a jump-start to turn our black banks and orange streams into more productive greener landscapes and cleaner watersheds to improve our quality of life in the coalfields.”
"Reclamation of abandoned mine sites has been an integral part of our organization’s work since we were founded in 1994,” said Bev Braverman, executive director of Mountain Watershed Association. “In the 125-square-mile Indian Creek watershed there are over 130 known mine discharges which foul water, contaminate private drinking water supplies, and hinder tourism and economic development. Our vision is to treat the 11 worst discharges in the watershed which will result in restoration of over 95 percent of Indian Creek. Our analysis has shown that every dollar invested in mine drainage cleanup in the Indian Creek watershed results in a $2.40 return to the local economy in terms of recreational fishing alone. Clean water makes good economic sense, and the RECLAIM Act promises to help expedite this vital work."
“We look forward to Congressmen Thompson’s and Cartwright’s leadership in building further support among Pennsylvania’s Congressional delegation as well as their colleagues in other coal mining states,” said Dawes. “And we stand ready to ensure this legislation helps the communities it’s intended to help and get RECLAIM through Congress to President Trump’s desk.”
Click Here to read an op-ed on the RECLAIM proposal by EPCAMR.
You can learn more about those projects and their benefits, visit DEP’s AMR Pilot Program webpage, and listen to a recent episode of the PA Environmental Council’s Pennsylvania Legacies podcast.
PEC urges you to contact your member of Congress and convey your support for these important bills.
Reauthorize AML Fee
Also on the table in Congress is reauthorization of the federal Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fee which is the source of revenue for the RECLAIM and federal Abandoned Mine Reclamation Program.  The fees are set to expire in 2021.
The Western Pennsylvania Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation is participating in the national effort to reauthorize SMCRA by collaborating with States and Tribes to establish a grassroots campaign and publish tools for citizens, non-profits, and legislators to use for advocating for abandoned mine reclamation.
Click Here for a presentation by WPCAMR on fee reauthorization.  Click Here for a video on reauthorization.  Questions should be directed to Andy McAllister, WPCAMR, by calling by 724-832-3625 or send email to: andy@wpcamr.org.
Related Stories:
Campaign Starting Now To Reauthorize Federal Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fee

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