President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will clean up hazardous sites, address environmental injustices
Date: Thursday, December 8, 2022
WASHINGTON — The Biden-Harris administration today announced $2.3 million from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to create good-paying union jobs and catalyze economic opportunity by reclaiming abandoned mine lands (AML) in Alaska (receiving $1.33 million) and Texas (receiving $986,367). The Department of the Interior has made $725 million available to 22 states and the Navajo Nation in fiscal year 2022.
Millions of Americans nationwide live within just one mile of an abandoned coal mine or orphaned oil and gas well. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law allocates a total of $11.3 billion in AML funding over 15 years, facilitated by the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE). This historic funding is expected to address the vast majority of inventoried abandoned coal mine lands in this country, which will help communities eliminate dangerous environmental conditions and pollution caused by past coal mining.
“I know first-hand what it’s like to live near a toxic, abandoned mine. In communities like my Pueblo of Laguna, people deal with the serious risks to our environment and our health that legacy pollution poses,” said Secretary Deb Haaland. “We have a once-in-a-generation investment to address abandoned mine lands. Thanks to President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, I believe the reclamation landscape of tomorrow presents endless opportunities for innovation, efficiency and partnership.”
The Department has announced over $642 million in awards in the last two months for Alabama, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia. Funding will be awarded to additional eligible entities on a rolling basis as they apply.
AML reclamation supports jobs in coal communities by investing in projects that close dangerous mine shafts, reclaim unstable slopes, improve water quality by treating acid mine drainage, and restore water supplies damaged by mining. It also enables economic revitalization by reclaiming hazardous land for recreational facilities and other economic redevelopment uses like advanced manufacturing and renewable energy deployment. As required by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, funding will prioritize projects that employ dislocated coal industry workers.
This funding will enable states to remediate abandoned mines that are leaking methane – a key contributor to climate change. This comes as part of the Biden-Harris administration’s unprecedented investments in coal, oil and gas and power plant communities. This effort also advances the President’s Justice40 Initiative which commits to delivering 40% of the benefits of certain climate and clean energy investments to disadvantaged communities.
As required by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, allocations are determined based on the number of tons of coal historically produced in each state or on Indian lands before August 3, 1977, when the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (SMCRA) was enacted. States are guaranteed at least $20 million over the 15-year life of the program if their inventory of AML sites would cost more than $20 million to address. As state AML inventories are updated, future distributions will change.
These investments supplement traditional annual AML grants, which are funded by coal operators and ensured to be provided through 2034, thanks to language in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Under the AML reclamation program, OSMRE has provided more than $8 billion to reclaim lands and waters that were mined or affected by mining prior to 1977, when SMCRA was enacted by Congress.