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Community Reclamation Partnerships Act Draws Bipartisan Support

WASHINGTON, D.C., May 24, 2017 -

Today, the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources held a legislative hearing on the “Community Reclamation Partnerships Act” (Rep. Darin LaHood, R-IL), discussion draft legislation to authorize partnerships between states and non-governmental entities for the purpose of expanding abandoned mine reclamation projects.

I’m honored to be the author of this proposed legislation… I’ve interacted with a lot of private organizations that want to help, that want to be involved,” Rep. LaHood said.This is not only [an issue] for the Rocky Mountains and Appalachia, but all across the country.”

According to the Department of Interior, over 6,650 abandoned mine lands (AML) sites remain with estimated remediation costs exceeding $10.5 billion. States are primarily responsible for reclamation activities and projects are financed through fees levied on current coal mining activities.  

“The cost of reclaiming these sites will continue to strain State resources in the coming decades and the conditions of these sites will only worsen over time,” Subcommittee Chairman Paul Gosar (R-AZ) said.

With the coal industry experiencing a shrinking market, there are concerns as to whether the full inventory of AML sites can be addressed relying solely on the existing financing mechanism.

“Now more than ever, the States and their AML-impacted communities could use the assistance of their passionate and capable Community Reclaimers partners, but current circumstances unfortunately heavily disincentive that possibility,” John Stefanko, Deputy Secretary for the Active and Abandoned Mine Operations in the  Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, stated.

The discussion draft addresses impediments potential “Community Reclaimers” face in the reclamation process by allowing states to assume liability on their behalf, shielding them from any undue responsibilities under the law. The legislation is designed to incentivize non-governmental organizations to contribute their resources towards these much-needed projects. 

“Cleaning up these mines is pretty straightforward,” President of Trout Unlimited Chris Wood said. Improving the nations water quality is a goal that every American shares.”

The discussion draft also undertakes a long-awaited solution to the problem of abating acid mine drainage (AMD). Currently, states are required to meet unrealistic, infeasible Clean Water Act (CWA) standards when treating contaminated water at AML sites. As a result, some states have established state-specific guidelines on how they will carry out their responsibilities under the CWA.

“The EPA has acknowledged and attempted to mediate the conflict between AMD treatment and the Clean Water Act in the past, but the Agency’s efforts have not meaningfully facilitated progress,” Stefanko said.

The discussion draft recognizes approved, state-specific agreements as appropriate standards at AMD treatment sites in lieu of CWA requirements.

The discussion draft garnered support from Members on both sides of the dias in addition to the witnesses testifying.

Naturally I’m interested in any solution such as Mr. LaHood’s bill that can help speed up the pace of this cleanup as well as help the people of southwestern Virginia and other coal communities who are struggling with high unemployment and polluted water,” Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) stated.

Click here to view full witness testimony.

Contact: Committee Press Office 202-226-9019

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