Statement for the Record
U.S. Department of the Interior
Committee on Energy and Natural Resources Committee
S. 3957, Safeguarding Treatment for the Restoration of Ecosystems from Abandoned Mines Act
December 1, 2022
Thank you for the opportunity to provide a written statement on behalf of the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) on S. 3957, the Safeguarding Treatment for the Restoration of Ecosystems from Abandoned Mines Act (STREAM Act).
Through the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (SMCRA), Congress established OSMRE to achieve two basic goals:
The enactment of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (Pub. L. 117-58) (BIL) further advanced these goals with a historic investment of $11.293 billion to accelerate the restoration of coalfield communities and the extension of OSMRE’s authority to collect the AML reclamation fee for an additional 13 years.
Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Investments and Implementation
The BIL has provided OSMRE with a new opportunity to invest in the restoration of the Nation’s coalfield communities by significantly expanding the AML program and improving OSMRE’s ability to support state and Tribal partners, local governments, and stakeholders. Implementing the BIL and delivering meaningful results is a top priority for OSMRE.
The distribution announced on February 7, 2022, was the first of 15 annual installments under the BIL that will provide approximately $10.87 billion (after directed reductions) to eligible states and Tribes for AML reclamation projects, in addition to funds available under AML-fee based grants.
S. 3957 – Safeguarding Treatment for the Restoration of Ecosystems from Abandoned Mines Act (STREAM Act)
The STREAM Act amends section 40701(c) of the BIL to authorize states and Tribes receiving BIL grants to deposit up to 30 percent of their annual BIL grant funding into a state or Tribal fund to be used for the abatement and treatment of the effects of acid mine drainage (AMD), as well as the construction, operation, maintenance, and rehabilitation of AMD treatment systems. Unlike the AML fee-based AMD set-aside program established under section 402(g) of SMCRA, 30 U.S.C. § 1232(g), the BIL funds would not be tied to a “qualified hydrologic unit.”
In addition, the STREAM Act requires recipients to update the existing AML inventory maintained by OSMRE to reflect the expenditure of the newly authorized AMD set-aside funds. Grant recipients would be required to include information in their annual grant reports specifying the status and balance of funds in their AMD accounts. Furthermore, the use of the newly authorized AMD set-aside funds would not be subject to any temporal limitations.
OSMRE appreciates the opportunity this legislation provides to states and Tribes to mitigate legacy water pollution, now and in the future. The Department believes that this legislation will ensure that more waterways in coalfield communities are restored, providing clean, safe drinking water and increased recreation and tourism opportunities. Historically, both state and Tribal AML programs and non-governmental organizations have funded the construction of AMD treatment facilities; however, those programs and organizations have also expressed reservations about building new treatment systems without a reliable source of funds to ensure their continued operation and maintenance. By providing a reliable source of funds, this bill would ensure the long-term viability of AMD treatment systems and benefit coalfield communities.
The Department stands ready to assist with issues related to SMCRA, water improvement and treatment, and improving the environment. OSMRE will continue to work with states and Tribes, the Interstate Mining Compact Commission, the National Association of Abandoned Mine Land Programs, local watershed groups, and other stakeholders to identify opportunities to improve the quality of life for residents of coalfield communities. OSMRE is fully committed to restoring legacy mine lands and waters to productive and safe uses and we welcome the opportunity to work with the Committee on S. 3957. Thank you for the opportunity to provide this statement for the record.