Fighting to Fund Mine Reclamation Projects

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SWOYERSVILLE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) – Evidence of the days when coal was king linger throughout Northeastern Pennsylvania in the form of culm banks.

The job to rid those piles of waste is in dire need of funding. Now, two local lawmakers in Washington aim to keep the work on track.

From left: Sen. John Yudichak (I-14th District), Rep. Dan Meuser (R-9th District),
Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-8th District)

The work you see is an ongoing project, nine months and counting. With each truckload, crews are cleaning up what was the old Harry E. coal breaker that is now just an abandoned mine land site.

“There are hundreds and hundreds of them in northeastern Pennsylvania, abandoned mines that have to be closed, that have to be repaired,” said Rep. Matt Cartwright (D) 8th District.

The work requires money which is why Representative Cartwright authored what’s called the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act Amendments of 2019.

At a news conference Thursday morning, The democratic congressman discussed how the measure passed the House Natural Resources Committee last week.

The proposed legislation would reauthorize the Abandoned Mine Land Trust Fund set to expire next year. Extending the AML trust fund another 15 years, it would allow Pennsylvania and other states to collect small fees from active coal mine operators to pay for mine reclamation projects.

“About 6 or 7 billion dollars this will generate,” said Cartwright.

The measure has bi-partisan support. Republican Representative Dan Meuser co-sponsored the bill. Removing the coal waste does more than remove safety and environmental worries.

“We will use the waste coal in the co-gen plants but on the same note it’s very much of a environmental bill,” said Rep. Dan Meuser, (R) 9th District.

The bill to keep the AML Trust Fund afloat is just one of the pieces of legislation Congressmen Cartwright and Meuser are working on.

“I was a part of passing legislation to have a coal refuse tax credit in Pennsylvania so that these projects are viable so that we can create energy, create jobs and restore the environment. That’s the mutual benefit here,” said Sen. John Yudichak, (I) 14th District.

The five-county region that makes up Pennsylvania’s 8th congressional district has more than 300 abandoned mine sites which need to be fully reclaimed.

The estimated cost to clean up these sites tops $114 million.

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