Abandoned Mine Land (AML) Campaign

About the campaign

An informal cooperative of non-profit organizations, government agencies, and concerned citizens working across the coal regions of the United States to promote Federal, State, and Tribal policies for the remediation of the issues caused by our nation’s pre-regulation and abandoned coal mines. Presently, the AML Campaign’s main focus is the Re-Authorization of the Surface Mine Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) of 1977, federal legislation that set a per-ton collection fee on today’s coal mining industry that is used to correct the environmental and socio-economical degradation from pre-regulation abandoned coal mines. An action by the United States Congress will ensure that funding will continue into the future.

What the campaign supports

Reauthorization of the AMRF Fee collection until year 2036.

Based on requested funding levels, projected future production, and estimated costs of cleaning up inventoried sites, it will take 15 years to address most of the abandoned mine problems.

Restructuring of the Fees.

Since the enactment of SMCRA in 1977, the per ton reclamation fees have never accounted for inflation while the cost of reclamation continues to rise. We propose that the reclamation fee should be restructured to 35 cents per ton of coal produced by surface coal mining and underground mining, except that the reclamation fee for lignite coal shall be at a rate of 2 per centum of the value of the coal at the mine, or 10 cents per ton, whichever is less.

Increasing Minimum Program State Funding to $5 Million Annually.

Since 2006, this funding has been set at $3 million. In recent years, minimum program states have received significantly less due to sequestration. Additionally, in recent years, OSMRE has discontinued support to states and tribes with AML emergencies forcing states and tribes to use annual allotment to mitigate AML emergencies. Increasing this amount would help make up for past under- funding and ensure that states and tribes with significant AML problems but low production would be able to continue running effective programs. This potentially affects ten states.

Exempting of SMCRA Title IV Grants from Sequestration.

Funds in the AML Trust Fund collected through SMCRA Title IV are not taxpayer funds, they are dedicated funds which can only be sued for AML reclamation, and thus will not accomplish deficit reduction. The only way to exempt these funds from sequestration is to include it in legislation. If the AML Fund grants continue to be subject to sequestration, States will lose upwards of $188 Million and Pennsylvania alone stands to lose upwards of $37 million over the remaining seven years of the current AML program. The SMCRA Title IV grants should be exempt from sequestration and all Title IV sequestered funds should be given back to the states, retroactive to FY 2013.

Legislative Roundup

Federal

House Spending Bill

During the fall, the House of Representatives passed a spending bill they had fashioned earlier in the year. This bill had a provision to distribute funding to several coal mining states in the east that have extensive AML problems. This one shot distribution appears to be the House’s answer to the Administration’s stalled Power +/AMLER proposal. Like the AMLER proposal, the House spending bill requires that the funds be used for AMR in areas that would benefit most from job creation. DEP had received guidance from OSMRE on spending the funds in late spring of this year and has made a selection of several projects which have been approved by OSMRE. Work on those projects is proceeding.

There is another spending Bill put forth by the House of Representatives for the 2016- 2017 year which calls for another infusion of funds to selected states very similar to the one from last year. If this spending bill passes this fall, it will result in another infusion of funding to Pennsylvania.

H.R. 4456 (RECLAIM Act of 2016)

A House Resolution that came out on February 3rd. This resolution is a mirror of the AMLER portion of the President’s “Power +” plan from last year. This proposed bill has some measure of bi‐partisan support but we’re not sure where the states stand with it. There is a possibility the bill could move during the lame duck session this fall.

H.R. 3844 (Rep. Jody Hice, Ga), “Energy and Minerals Reclamation Foundation Establishment Act”

This is a bill that proposes to set up a foundation (somewhat akin to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation) that is able to accept donations from the private sector then grant out funds to assist with orphan well or abandoned hardrock and coal reclamation. Specifically, the legislation establishes a Foundation to assist the Bureau of Land Management, other federal land management agencies, state agencies, and non-profit organizations to raise funds for the purpose of AML and orphaned oil and gas site cleanup on federal lands, lands that were federally-managed during extraction activity, or sites that could adversely impact other federal lands. HR3844 passed the House in early July and is now in the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

H.R. 4456, the “RECLAIM Act”

This act allows for operation and maintenance funding but only for new treatment systems created under the funding from RECLAIM. The PA AML Campaign suggested changes to RECLAIM that would also fund existing treatment systems funded through SMCRA Title IV. However, we have yet to see if those changes will be accepted by Rep. Rogers office.

Federal Good Samaritan Protection

H.R. 3843 (Rep. Doug Lamborn‐Co), “Locatable Minerals Claim Location and MaintenanceFees Act of 2015”

This bill was also introduced in October 2015 to authorize for a 7-year period the collection of claim location and maintenance fees (hardrock mining), and for other purposes. H.R. 3843 is part of the Committee’s three-pronged response to the Gold King Mine and the Standard Mine spills that occurred in Colorado in August and September of this year, which the Committee is continuing to investigate. This bill centers largely on hardrock sites and uses fees to set up a database for hardrock sites but Title III of this bill proposes Good Samaritan protection for those working on abandoned mine sites (coal and hardrock).

Waste Coal to Energy

SENSE Act

Representative Rothfus (Pennsylvania) has developed the “Sense Act”, to ensure that the coal refuse-to-energy industry can continue its vital mission of providing affordable energy, supporting jobs, and remediating formerly-polluted sites across historic coal producing regions. This bill had passed the House and is now in the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

SB 368

Introduced January 30, 2015 by Sen. White, providing for a waste coal energy and reclamation tax credit. Still in appropriations committee as of June 25, 2015.

HB 1370

Introduced June 29, 2015 by Rep. Gibbons. Both for establishing a coal refuse energy and reclamation tax credit. HB was referred to Committee on Environmental Resources and Energy on June 29, 2015 and is still there.