Date: Tuesday, July 13, 2021
WASHINGTON —During a visit to Pennsylvania today, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland and National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy discussed federal efforts to reclaim abandoned mine lands, which will help communities eliminate dangerous legacy pollution while creating good-paying union jobs and advancing environmental justice.
Secretary Haaland and Climate Advisor McCarthy toured abandoned mine lands with Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn, and representatives of Interior’s Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement and Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection’s Bureau of Abandoned Mine Reclamation. Lands included areas that have been reclaimed and converted into a public-use recreational park, as well as an ongoing stream restoration project of the Donaldson Culm Bank in Tremont, Pa. They also toured a park in Shamokin, Pa., to assess the environmental impacts from abandoned mine drainage on local waterways.
“Hardworking communities like coal miners in Pennsylvania helped power our country. With critical investments to reclaim abandoned mine lands and plug orphan wells, the Department of the Interior is wholly committed to helping working families who face hazardous pollution, toxic water levels, and land subsidence both during mining and long after coal companies have moved on,” said Secretary Haaland.
“President Biden is committed to providing Federal leadership in partnership with coal, oil and gas and power plant communities – to create good-paying jobs, spur economic revitalization, remediate environmental degradation and support energy workers. Pennsylvania is showing how strategic investments in place-based approaches to environmental remediation can grow the industries of the future while maintaining and creating good-paying jobs and reducing pollution,” said Climate Advisor McCarthy.
The trip highlighted the importance of President Biden's American Jobs Plan and Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework, which contain historic investments in addressing legacy pollution, including $16 billion to reclaim abandoned mine lands and cap orphaned oil and natural gas wells.
By partnering with local and state officials, community members and other stakeholders, these federal efforts to reclaim abandoned mine lands will help revitalize local economies and support reclamation jobs, all while addressing environmental impacts from legacy coal developments.
These investments are part of the Biden-Harris administration’s all-of-government approach to helping spur economic revitalization in hard-hit energy communities. In just the last few months, the Interior Department has invested more than $260 million for states and Tribes to support reclamation efforts through the Abandoned Mine Land (AML) and Abandoned Mine Land Economic Revitalization (AMLER) grant programs – including over $27 million in Pennsylvania.
AML and AMLER funds support vital jobs for coal communities by also funding projects that close dangerous mine shafts, reclaim unstable slopes, improve water quality by treating acid mine drainage and restore water supplies damaged by mining.
There are at least 34,000 known abandoned coal mine features and more than 8,600 documented orphan wells in Pennsylvania, with hundreds of thousands of wells believed to be waiting to be found and properly plugged. Nearly 3 million Pennsylvanians live within one mile of an abandoned mine site.