Abandoned Mine Land (AML) Campaign

About the campaign

The Pennsylvania Abandoned Mine Land (AML) Campaign is a no-budget, no-letterhead group of organizations and individuals advocating for policies and programs that benefit the coal-impacted communities of Pennsylvania and beyond.

The organizations that participate in PA AML Campaign activities include local, regional, state-wide, and national non-profit organizations, county conservation districts, townships and municipalities, trade associations, landowners, business owners, sportsmen clubs, and individuals.

Citizens Coal Council
Eastern Pennsylvania Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation (EPCAMR)
Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds
Mountain Watershed Association
Pennsylvania Association of Conservation Districts
Pennsylvania Environmental Council
Trout Unlimited and many of its chapters
Western Pennsylvania Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation (WPCAMR)
Western Pennsylvania Conservancy

We are advised by state and national agencies, associations, and commissions such as the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Bureau of Abandoned Mine Reclamation (PA DEP BAMR), National Association of Abandoned Mine Land Programs, and Interstate Mining Compact Commission.

General Campaign Fact Sheet

Current Focus

The Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) is sweeping federal legislation regulating coal mining in the U.S. Prior to its original passage in 1977, the coal mining industry was largely unregulated, especially with regard to the environment. Over a century of environmentally insensitive mining practices took a huge toll on the land and water where mining occurred. But SMCRA changed the face of the coal mining industry into one that is vastly safer with a significantly smaller environmental impact. Over the years, SMCRA has been amended several times, most recently in December 2006, when a number of changes accelerated reclamation of mine-scarred lands and waters in the coal regions of the U.S.

Funding for reclamation activities is derived from a reclamation fee on every ton of coal mined in the U.S. since 1977. Those fees are placed into an account known as the Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund (AMRF). This fee collection is set to expire in 2021. The Fee Collection must be reauthorized through an amendment to SMCRA for our valuable work to continue.

What the campaign supports

Reauthorization of the AMLF Fee collection until year 2036.

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

Establishment of a Direct Line Item in OSMRE Budget for Emergency Projects.

Section 410 of SMCRA requires OSMRE to fund the emergency AML program using OSMRE’s “discretionary share” under Section (402)(g)(3)(B), which is entirely separate from state and tribal non-emergency AML grant funding under Sections (402)(g)(1), (g)(2), and (g)(5). In FY 2011, OSMRE issued guidance to the states that the agency “will no longer declare emergencies.” OSMRE has shifted responsibility for emergencies to the states and tribes with the expectation that they will utilize non-emergency AML funding to address them. No additional funding is provided for emergency projects. The result of this shift is that states and tribes must utilize a portion of their P1/P2 AML funding to address emergency projects. Pennsylvania has spent an average of $4 Million annually since 2012 on emergency projects. We urge congress to restore emergency funding and allow states and tribes to use their limited resources to address their existing inventories.

 

Restoring 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. As a result of the 2006 Amendments to SMCRA, the fees were reduced. We propose restoring the fees to the 1977 levels so that progress may be made.

Maintaining the 30% Set-Aside Option for states and tribes.

Pennsylvania has taken advantage of this provision to construct and maintain AMD treatment systems. It is important to maintain the 30% Set-Aside provision to maintain flexibility for use of funds.

Maintaining a Transfer of Interest to the Combined Benefit Fund (CBF).

Interest generated on the AMLF is currently transferred to the CBF to defray health care costs for retired miners and their dependents whose companies have gone bankrupt or are no longer in business. The CBF pays for health care expenses remaining after Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement and pays for prescription drugs. There are approximately 60,000 beneficiaries, whose average age is 78 years old.  

 

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 and tribes 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 their 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.

Maintaining Mandatory Distributions.

With the 2006 amendments to SMCRA, distributions to the states and tribes were no longer subject to Congressional appropriation and the distributions were made mandatory. Mandatory distribution should continue so Pennsylvania can receive the most funding possible in a given year.

 

Exempting of SMCRA Title IV Grants from Sequestration.

Funds in the AMLF collected through SMCRA Title IV are not taxpayer funds, they are dedicated funds which can only be used 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 AMLF grants continue to be subject to sequestration, states and tribes will lose upwards of $188 Million and Pennsylvania alone stands to lose upwards of $37 million over the remaining 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 and tribes, retroactive to FY 2013.

Maintaining the Current Priority Ranking Criteria of Priorities 1, 2, and 3.

States and tribes have the discretion to use their allocations from the AMLF for projects falling into any of the three priorities.

 

Legislative Roundup

Federal

S. 1193 Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation Fee Extension Act

A Senate Bill to amend the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 to extend the period during which certain reclamation fees are required to be paid.


H.R. 4248 Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act Amendments of 2019

To amend the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 to allow the Secretary of the Interior to delegate certain emergency reclamation activities to the States and Tribes, and for other purposes.


H.R. 2156 RECLAIM Act of 2019

To amend the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 to provide funds to States and Indian tribes for the purpose of promoting economic revitalization, diversification, and development in economically distressed communities through the reclamation and restoration of land and water resources adversely affected by coal mining carried out before August 3, 1977, and for other purposes.


 

Federal Good Samaritan Protection

H.R. 315 Community Reclamation Partnerships Act

To amend the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 to authorize partnerships between States and nongovernmental entities for the purpose of reclaiming and restoring land and water resources adversely affected by coal mining activities before August 3, 1977, and for other purposes.


Waste Coal to Energy

PA House Bill 1481 Extending the Pennsylvania Coal Refuse Energy and Reclamation Tax Credit

An Act amending the act of March 4, 1971 (P.L.6, No.2), known as the Tax Reform Code of 1971, in coal refuse energy and reclamation tax credit, further providing for definitions, for application and approval of tax credit and for limitation on tax credits.

PA Senate Bill 618 Extending the Pennsylvania Coal Refuse Energy and Reclamation Tax Credit

An Act amending the act of March 4, 1971 (P.L.6, No.2), known as the Tax Reform Code of 1971, in coal refuse energy and reclamation tax credit, further providing for definitions, for application and approval of tax credit and for limitation on tax credits.