Friday, June 21, 2019

PA Council Of Trout Unlimited Urges PA Congressional Delegation To Reauthorize Federal Mine Reclamation Fee, Program

The PA Council of Trout Unlimited recently wrote to all members of Pennsylvania's Congressional Delegation urging them to reauthorize the federal Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fee and Program.  The text of the letter follows--
On behalf of the Pennsylvania Council of Trout Unlimited (PATU) and our 14,000 volunteer members, we are writing today to strongly support reauthorization of the Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund fee, which finances state-directed, on-the-ground cleanup of our land and waters.
The Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund is supported by a fee on every ton of coal currently produced, and these funds are distributed to states dealing with impacts from historic coal mining, including Pennsylvania.
Congressional action is required before 2021 to permit continued collection of this much-needed fee.
We urge you not to delay working with your colleagues on reauthorization legislation.
As Congress discovered in the years preceding reauthorization in 2006, abandoned mine funding is a complex issue that requires time and energy to resolve.
Given the scope of the problem in Pennsylvania, where estimates of the need approach $15 billion, we urge you to see that funding does not expire before the damage from historic coal mining can be fully addressed.
The scope of the damage to Pennsylvania’s natural resources from abandoned coal mines is enormous.
Before 1977, mining companies were not required to address the impacts of their operations on land and water resources, and as a result, the Commonwealth is afflicted with more abandoned mine lands than any other state in the nation.
More than 287,000 acres of mine lands await cleanup, and more than 5,500 miles of waterways are polluted by Abandoned Mine Drainage, or AMD, which has left streams devoid of aquatic life.
Relying on funding from the Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund (AMRF), made possible by Title IV of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (SMCRA), Pennsylvania has made strides in addressing this legacy pollution.
But the job is far from complete.
Over the past four decades, the Commonwealth has received $1.3 billion from the AMRF and put it to good use. It has reclaimed nearly 25,000 acres of abandoned mine lands, addressed polluted drinking water supplies, dealt with hazardous sites, and restored hundreds of miles of AMD-impaired streams.
According to the IMCC and the National Association of Abandoned Mine Land Programs, for every dollar invested $1.59 was returned to local economies. With reauthorization we can ensure that this trajectory of success continues.
The mission of Trout Unlimited is to conserve, protect, and restore coldwater fisheries and their watersheds, and in Pennsylvania, there is no better example of this than the work we have done to revive waterways polluted by AMD.
In streams that ran bright orange, we are working to improve water quality and give Pennsylvania’s native brook trout a chance to flourish.
Working with local partners over the past two decades, we have cleaned up much of the mine drainage in the lower Kettle Creek watershed, and we have welcomed the return of trout to once-polluted Twomile Run and Middle Branch.
In the West Branch Susquehanna River watershed and elsewhere, we are helping partners plan and implement mine drainage treatment projects. We have provided technical assistance on nearly 200 sites across the state, supporting millions of dollars of remediation projects made possible by grants from the AML trust fund.
There is much more work to do.
According to the Interstate Mining Compact Commission (IMCC) and the US Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE), at least 15 years and $10.5 billion worth of reclamation and remediation nationwide is ahead of us.
Pennsylvania’s estimated bill for Priority 1 and Priority 2 inventoried sites alone could top $4 billion. When taking into account water pollution projects that are needed, the estimated cost could be upwards of $15 billion for Pennsylvania.
It is imperative that Congress reauthorize fee collection for AMRF before it expires in 2021, and at the same time make a number of reforms to SMCRA to ensure that there is enough federal funding available to finish this important work.
Thank you for your consideration of these comments. Please do not hesitate to contact us with questions.
Greg Malaska                                  Brian Wagner
President                                         PA Representative
PA Council Of Trout Unlimited      Trout Unlimited National Leadership Council
For more information on programs, initiatives, upcoming events and how you can get  involved, visit the PA Council of Trout Unlimited website.
(Photo: Little Conemaugh Watershed, Cambria County, 150 percent return on investment.)
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