Thursday, January 23, 2020

Bipartisan Call For Continued Federal Funding For Abandoned Mine Clean-Up By Cong. Cartwright, Meuser, State, Local Officials

On January 23, Congressman Matt Cartwright (D-PA), U.S. Rep. Dan Meuser (R-PA), and state and local elected officials welcomed recent progress on legislation in the U.S. House to provide Northeastern Pennsylvania with long-term federal funding for the clean-up of the more than 100 remaining unreclaimed abandoned mine land (AML) sites in the region.
The bill, Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act Amendments of 2019 (H.R. 4248), passed the House Natural Resources Committee last week, and it is awaiting a vote by the full U.S. House. 
Authored by Cong. Cartwright and co-sponsored by Cong. Meuser, this bill would reauthorize the AML Trust Fund, which allows states to collect small fees from active coal mine operators in order to pay for abandoned mine reclamation-- largely focused in historic coal communities like those in Northeastern Pennsylvania and throughout the Appalachian region. 
The reclamation process is essential to cleaning up our waterways and protecting communities from the hazards of abandoned mines, such as acid mine drainage, dangerous highwalls, unattended explosives and waste coal piles.
In Pennsylvania’s Eighth Congressional District, there are more than 300 AML sites that have yet to be fully reclaimed. The cost to clean up these sites throughout the district is estimated to exceed $114 million, However, the AML Trust Fund will stop collecting reclamation funds in September 2021 if Congress does not act.
“The Swoyersville project should serve as a model for the hundreds of other sites across Northeastern Pennsylvania that can be transformed into places where our children can play safely, areas that can foster new businesses, and communities that will prosper,” said Cong. Cartwright. “If Congress fails to renew this fund, this urgent work will never be finished, and our local communities will be left to pay the price.
“It’s so important that we work together not only across party lines, but also across all levels of government, to make sure this important work gets done,” Cong. Cartwright continued. “Rep. Meuser’s support in Congress for this bill has been invaluable, and I’m proud that we’ve joined forces with our state and local leaders, as well as area businesses and nonprofits, to make this a team effort.”
“Lately, many headlines coming out of Washington aren’t very productive, so I am glad to come together today in a bipartisan way with meaningful solutions for mine-affected communities throughout our region,” said Cong. Meuser. “Coal is among our most important natural resources in Northeast Pennsylvania, but abandoned mines and coal refuse piles are a hazard to our public health and safety. Our efforts to incentivize coal refuse remediation and clean-up abandoned mines will make our communities safer, stimulate economic development, and create a significant difference in the quality of life for many Pennsylvanians.”
“I’ve lived in the center of the northern coalfields my entire life among the shadows of hundreds of abandoned mines, and they continue to pose health and safety risks like environmental degradation acid mine drainage,” said Robert Hughes, Executive Director of the Eastern PA Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation. “Our reclamation efforts around the area are making progress, but we can’t let them come to a halt now. Cleaning up these hazardous sites not only creates a safer, cleaner environment for our children; it also has the potential to create new economic and recreational opportunities in our communities. EPCAMR thanks Representatives Cartwright and Meuser for leading the charge to reauthorize the AML Trust Fund to ensure this important work can carry on.”
State Senator John Yudichak (I-Luzerne), Swoyersville Mayor Chris Concert (I) and Sean Lane, Vice President of Olympus Power--  a company that uses waste coal from the Harry E. site at its Panther Creek cogeneration plant in Nesquehoning-- also spoke about how federal, state and local efforts to clean up AML sites create jobs, restore local communities and pave the way for new economic development.
(Photo: Sen. John Yudichak; U.S. Rep. Dan Meuser; U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright; EPCAMR Executive Director Robert Hughes.)
Related Article:
[Posted: January 23, 2020]  PA Environment Digest

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