Tuesday, November 16, 2021

WPCAMR: New Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Addresses PA’s #1 Water Pollution Problem; Questions About What Projects Can Be Funded

On November 15, the President signed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill (BIF).  The US House of Representatives passed the BIF on November 5th.  

That Bill contained, among a lot of other items, the reauthorization of the fees that support the Abandoned Mine Land Fund, which was created in 1977 by the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA), to reclaim dangerous and toxic coal mines abandoned before August 3, 1977.  

As you may already know, the SMCRA authorization to collect fees from present-day coal mining operations expired on September 30, 2021. The collected AML fees were distributed in the form of annual grants to states that have historically abandoned mine problems.  

Pennsylvania is one of those states.

U.S. Senator Casey (D-PA) was Pennsylvania’s only Senator who voted to pass the Infrastructure Bill in the Senate earlier in the summer.  

The votes to pass the bill in the US House of Representatives on November 5th went largely along party lines with all of Pennsylvania’s Democratic US Representatives voting for the bill and only one Republican, Representative Fitzpatrick from Bucks County voting for it.  

We thank Representative Fitzpatrick and all of the other members of the PA Delegation that voted for reauthorization.  

This is a big win for Pennsylvania’s coal mining areas.

In addition to reauthorizing the AML fee collection and annual SMCRA grants to the states, there is another source of abandoned mine reclamation funding within the BIF itself.  

$11.3 billion of Treasury funds are appropriated and stipulated to go to 25 States and 3 Tribes that have abandoned coal mine problems.  

For Pennsylvania, that may come to about $3 billion over a 15 year period.  

Pennsylvania has the most abandoned mine problems of any state (more than $5 billion of hazardous abandoned mines and this does not include the millions needed each year to address AML emergencies) and these funds will be a welcome addition to help it tackle a multi-billion dollar problem. 

Questions About Projects To Be Funded

Although this is a momentous day for Pennsylvania’s Abandoned Mine Reclamation (AMR) Community, many questions remain regarding availability of the Infrastructure funds and the implementation of projects funded by the bill. 

The bill makes it clear the $11 billion is to be used for dangerous abandoned mines, water supply replacement, and AML emergencies.  

One of the biggest unanswered questions is will these funds be available to implement all Abandoned Mine Drainage (AMD) treatment projects especially through what is known as the AMD Set-Aside provision.  

In SMCRA, States are allowed to set aside up to 30 percent of their annual SMCRA AML grant for water projects (eg. For PADEP to build, operate, maintain, and rehabilitate acid mine drainage treatment systems that are located next to dangerous abandoned coal mines that are being reclaimed, etc).

Pennsylvania has many polluted waterways impacted by acid mine drainage and estimated costs are in the billions of dollars, in addition to the billions needed to reclaim dangerous mines.  

It will be up to the US Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE), the agency in the U.S. Department of the Interior that regulates all things coal mining, to interpret the language in the BIF to allow states to set aside infrastructure funds for AMD work.   

We hope they will recognize that AMD remediation is an integral part of AMR even if it isn’t adjacent to a land feature like waste coal piles.

We encourage the U.S. OSMRE and US Secretary of the Interior, Deb Haaland to interpret the language in the BIF to include AMD Set-Aside and we encourage members of the AMR community to write emails to their US Representatives as well as the OSMRE encouraging the interpretation of the BIF to include AMD Set-Aside.

Take Action

Click Here to find your US Representative.  

Click Here to contact the Secretary of the Dept of Interior.

Click Here to contact the federal Office Of Surface Mining and Reclamation Enforcement.

Related Articles:

-- PA-Based Evangelical Environmental Network: Signing Of Federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill Good News For Our Children, Communities And Country [PaEN]

-- Casey Delivers Key Infrastructure Wins For PA In Bipartisan Infrastructure Law [Mine Reclamation, Plugging Oil & Gas Wells]

-- 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

-- Gov. Wolf: Joins Biden At Signing Of Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill [Statement Does Not Mention Abandoned Coal Mine Reclamation - PA’s #1 Water Pollution Problem, Plugging Oil & Gas Wells]

-- Young Evangelicals For Climate Action Applaud Passage Of Federal Infrastructure Bill; Call For Quick Passage Of Build Back Better Budget Plan

-- CBF: Enactment Of Infrastructure Legislation Major Victory For Chesapeake Bay

-- Federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill Includes $26 Million More For Delaware River Watershed Restoration Efforts Over 5 Years

-- Conservation Voters Of PA: Passage Of Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill First Step In Achieving Climate Vision

[Posted: November 16, 2021]  PA Environment Digest

No comments :

Post a Comment

Subscribe To Receive Updates:

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner