Saturday, November 6, 2021

U.S. House Sends Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill To Biden’s Desk, Includes Largest-Ever Investment In Cleaning Up Abandoned Coal Mines - PA’s #1 Water Pollution Problem

On November 5, the U.S. House voted to approve the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, sending it to President Biden’s desk for his approval.

The bill includes the largest-ever investment in reclaiming abandoned coal mine lands-- Pennsylvania’s number 1 water pollution problem--  and reauthorizes the Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fee for 13 years at 80 percent of its level.

Pennsylvania is estimated to receive an annual allocation of $253.3 million totalling $3.8 billion over 15 years.  Read more here.

The bill authorizes a total of $11.3 billion over 15 years.  Over the last 40 years, states received just over $6 billion in mine reclamation funds.

Pennsylvanians across the state have been working since October of 2016 to get Congress to reauthorize the abandoned mine reclamation fee and the program.  Read more here.

The legislation also includes funding for--

-- Plugging orphaned oil and gas wells [DEP Gets Headstart On Spending These Funds];

-- Increase funding for Chesapeake Bay Program by $238 million over 5 years [Read more here];

-- $26 million for Delaware River Basin Restoration;

-- Cleaning up Superfund and brownfield sites;

-- Replacing lead pipes, addressing drinking water contamination by PFAS, wastewater facilities;

-- Making infrastructure resilient against impacts of climate change and extreme weather;

-- Modernizing electric grid and expanding the use of renewable energy;

-- $171 million to expand PA’s EV charging network and address [Read more here]; and

-- Electric, hybrid school buses.

Click Here for White House fact sheet.

All of Pennsylvania's Republican members in Congress-- House and Senate-- voted against the bill, except Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick.  [Read more here.]

Federal Budget Bill

Congressional House Democrats postponed a vote on President Biden’s $1.85 trillion Build Back Better budget proposal addressing health, family and programs to address climate change until later this month.  [Read more here.]  [What’s In This For The Environment]

Chesapeake Bay Resilient Farms Initiative

Also still on the federal budget table is a proposal to create a $737 million Chesapeake Bay Resilient Farms Initiative to provide assistance to farmers to install cost-effective conservation projects in local watersheds that have the greatest influence in Chesapeake Bay water quality.

A similar initiative was established in the Mississippi River Basin by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The initiative is being pushed by the PA Farm Bureau and farm groups in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed and the states of Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia.  [Read more here]

Runoff from agricultural areas is Pennsylvania’s #2 water pollution problem.

Allocating $500 Million In PA Federal ARD Funds

The Pennsylvania General Assembly has not yet taken final action on bipartisan legislation that made a commitment to allocate $500 million from the $5 billion remaining in federal American Rescue Plan monies provided to Pennsylvania to support local, community-based flood prevention, watershed restoration and recreation projects and pay for much-need maintenance and safety projects in State Parks and Forests.  [Read more here]

With only six voting days remaining this year, the House and Senate have little time to act on their commitment to this one-time federal funding opportunity.

Reaction To Infrastructure Bill

Appalachian Voices released a statement including reactions from around the Appalachian coal fields, including Robert Hughes, Executive Director for the Eastern PA Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation--

“This announcement has been a long time coming. Grassroots community organizations from across Appalachia and the country have been advocating for a long-term funding solution to reclaim our abandoned mines and restore our mining-impacted watersheds from water pollution for many years.

“EPCAMR has always envisioned these abandoned mine sites and Acid Mine Drainage-impaired streams as potential locations for reclamation and redevelopment that could lead to jobs and serve as a recoverable water resource for industrial, commercial, and alternative energy options.

“Many of these community groups across the country have continued to reach out time and time again over these last few years, to our area legislators at the State and Federal level in both the Congress and the Senate, to provide them with examples of innovative solutions to abandoned mine land reclamation and water treatment of AMD that we believe should be a part of the infrastructure package. 

"Designing and constructing active AMD treatment systems provides jobs to ensure that we have cleaner and greener landscapes and water restored through the treatment process allows for multiple downstream benefits in our coalfield communities."

Click Here for the full statement.

PennFuture Senior Director of Government Affairs Ezra Thrush issued this statement on passage of the legislation-- "The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed by the House of Representatives will deliver the kind of bold, ambitious action we need to meet the many challenges of this moment. 

“This legislation will result in the single largest investment in clean drinking water in American history, including $55 million to update old infrastructure and replace lead service lines, $26 million for the Delaware River Basin Restoration Program, and $238 million over the next five years for the Chesapeake Bay Program, 

“It will also invest $21 billion in environmental remediation, $7.5 billion to build out a national network of Electric Vehicle infrastructure, and $65 billion to upgrade our power infrastructure to facilitate the expansion of renewable energy.”

The York County-based Evangelical Environmental Network applauds the House of Representatives for coming together to pass the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act-- 

"The historic investments in this bill will have immediate impact defending our children’s health, restoring God’s creation, and setting us on the path to a clean energy future fueled by family-sustaining jobs for American workers across all corners of the country.

“We are grateful to President Biden, Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader Hoyer, and Representative DeFazio for their persistent leadership. 

“We thank all the bill supporters, especially the 13 Republicans – Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania; Don Bacon of Nebraska; Nicole Malliotakis of New York; Don Young of Alaska; Adam Kinzinger of Illinois; Fred Upton of Michigan; Jeff Van Drew and Chris Smith of New Jersey; Andrew Garbarino, John Katko and Tom Reed of New York; Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio; and David McKinley of West Virginia – who the put the health and security of our children and country first and voted for the bill. This shows climate action can – and should continue to be – bipartisan.

“The passage of this bill means parents won’t have to worry if their kids are drinking lead-contaminated water or breathing polluted air at the school bus stop. 

“It means abandoned oil and gas wells will no longer leak toxic pollutants and wasteful emissions of climate-warming methane near our schools and homes. 

“It means the revitalization of both coal country and frontline communities as abandoned mine lands and former industrial sites are cleaned up and given second life. 

“It means a 21st century energy grid that will deliver reliable, affordable clean electricity to small towns and big cities alike. 

“It means zero-emission electric vehicles will go the extra mile with a national network of charging stations. 

“It means restoring and replanting our national forests ravaged by wildfire. 

“And it means more resilient communities that are better prepared to withstand and rebound from the next climate-fueled flood, hurricane, drought, or wildfire.

“While there is much to celebrate, this—however—must only be the beginning. Congress must continue to come together to swiftly address the climate and pollution crises during this critical decade. 

“To keep our families healthy, our communities safe, God’s creation thriving, and our children’s future secure, 

“Congress must build upon the benefits in the infrastructure bill and finish the job with additional policies and investments, including those in the Build Back Better Act.”

Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) Federal Executive Director Denise Stranko issued the following statement--

“More money for the Chesapeake Bay Program is welcome news at a pivotal time for the future of the Bay, its tributaries, and the more than 18 million people who live, work, and play in its six-state watershed.

“EPA and the states are running out of time to meet their water-quality commitments by the Blueprint’s 2025 deadline. EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program plays a crucial role coordinating Bay restoration efforts. Investing an additional $47 million a year in the Bay Program will help put more boots on the ground planting streamside buffers, restoring oyster reefs, installing rain gardens, and pursuing the many other projects to reduce pollution that are central to implementing state cleanup plans.

“We look forward to partnering with EPA to make the most of this timely budget increase while we still have time to save this national treasure. We owe future generations nothing less."

Chesapeake Conservancy President and CEO Joel Dunn issued this statement--

“I applaud the House of Representatives for passing this historic and bipartisan legislation to invest in America’s infrastructure, including its water infrastructure and green infrastructure.

“Water is life, and access to clean water is among our most basic human rights. The Chesapeake Bay is our region’s most important natural resource and, as such, the fundamental piece of infrastructure from which everything else flows.

“This is a now-or-never moment. Global climate change is putting life as we know it at risk. This significant funding for the Chesapeake Bay Program, $238 million over five years, helps give everyone on the local, state and federal level the tools they need to help mitigate impending climate impacts and restore the health of the Chesapeake.

“Chesapeake Conservancy thanks the members of Congress who stood up for the Chesapeake Bay, especially the members of the Chesapeake Bay Task Force.”

Gov. Tom Wolf issued this statement on passage of the bipartisan infrastructure bill--

“The House’s approval of this historic infrastructure package will make significant investments in critical and necessary projects that will move this nation and our Commonwealth forward. 

“It will allow Pennsylvania to invest billions of dollars to improve our roads, bridges, ports and airports, address the climate crisis, and ensure more Pennsylvanians have access to high-speed internet. Further, it will create and sustain quality, good-paying union jobs and improve quality of life for hard-working Pennsylvanians. 

“I applaud President Joe Biden’s commitment to prioritizing infrastructure – a commitment I share for our Commonwealth – and the bipartisan Congressional actions to pass this legislation, which will strengthen our infrastructure, our economy, our environment, and our country. 

“I encourage the Pennsylvania Congressional delegation to support the president’s Build Back Better plan, which will build on this infrastructure package to provide more access to affordable health care and child care, protect our environment, and invest in our workforce.”

[Note: This post will be updated as more information becomes available.]


-- AP: Dems End Deadlock, House Hands Biden Infrastructure Win

-- NPR: U.S. House Passes $1 Trillion Infrastructure Plan, Sending It To Biden’s Desk

-- PA Cap-Star: U.S. House Sends Infrastructure Bill To Biden For His Signature

-- NPR: Stung By Election Results, Moderate Dems Want To Hit The Gas On Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill

-- PG: Republican PA Cong. Reschenthaler Says Infrastructure Bill Is An Attempt To Push ‘Radical, Socialist Goals’  [Like Lead & AMD-Free Clean Water?]

-- WPost: 13 Republicans Who Voted For Infrastructure Bill Now Facing Backlash [Including PA’s Brian Fitzpatrick]

-- SunburyDT:  Bucknell Susquehanna River Symposium Speaker Stresses Partnerships, Funding Needs

-- EIN: Local Leaders Gather At Cobbs Creek Community Environmental Center To Call For Green Infrastructure Funding

-- Dept. Of Revenue: Reports October State Revenues $159.9 Million More Than Anticipated; Up $788.2 Million Over Estimates For Fiscal Year; Senate Republicans Proposed $500 Million For Conservation

-- PA Cap-Star: VA’s Kane, Others Look To Add Chesapeake Bay Cleanup Provisions To Pentagon Spending Bill

-- Bay Journal - Karl Blankenship: Funding Strategy To Offset Conowingo Pollution Impacts Proves Elusive

Related Background Articles:

-- Going, Going, Gone... Senate, House Have Little Time To Act On Funding For Local Flood Prevention, Watershed Restoration, Recreation Projects

-- WPCAMR: Federal Mine Reclamation Fee Expired Sept. 30 - Congress Considers The Future Of Mine Reclamation Program [PA’s #1 Water Pollution Problem]

-- ​​DEP Invites Companies Involved In All Aspects Of Oil & Gas Well Plugging To Take A Survey

-- Appalachian Voices: U.S. Senate-Passed Infrastructure Bill Includes Largest-Ever Investment In Reclaiming Coal Lands

-- Presidents Of PA Farm Bureau, Farm Groups In Chesapeake Bay Watershed Call For USDA To Create $737 Million Resilient Farms Initiative [PA’s #2 Water Pollution Problem]

[Posted: November 6, 2021]  PA Environment Digest

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