RECLAIM PA PROGRAM
Pennsylvania has a $15 billion environmental liability. This is the result of abandoned operations from 200 years of coal, oil and gas, and industrial minerals extraction. These massive scars, which affect the Commonwealth’s land, water and air, are a result of fueling the 18th Century’s iron industry, the 19th Century’s Industrial Revolution, and the 20th Century’s two World Wars. During those efforts, the primary focus was on fuel production: little, if any, thought was given to environmental consequences. Since the inception of Pennsylvania’s first significant reclamation efforts in the 1960s, the Commonwealth has led the Nation in identifying and addressing abandoned mineral extraction problems affecting public health and safety.
Abandoned mineral extraction lands in Pennsylvania constitute a significant public liability. The toll includes more than 250,000 acres of abandoned surface mines, 2,400 miles of streams polluted with acid mine drainage (AMD), over 7,000 orphaned and abandoned oil and gas wells, widespread subsidence problems, numerous hazardous mine openings, mine fires, drainage problems, abandoned structures and affected water supplies. This catalogue represents as much as one third of the total problem nationally.
DEP has carefully planned expenditures of its limited reclamation funds and searched for innovative means to reclaim abandoned mineral extraction sites. Approximately $900 million in federal and state funds have been spent to address Pennsylvania’s problems over the past 30 years. DEP has developed an extensive list of remining incentives. The concept is the same as the Land Recycling or Act 2 "Brownfields" program for abandoned industrial sites. As an alternative to developing new mines in previously unaffected areas, the incentives will encourage the remining of abandoned mine lands (AML). The remining of old abandoned mines – using present-day environmental management techniques and controls, such as contemporaneous reclamation, acid mine drainage prediction and other compliance assistance techniques – results in considerable abandoned mine reclamation and pollution abatement at no cost to the Commonwealth. DEP also encourages the adoption of orphaned wells in an effort to return them to productivity. Even with such an aggressive approach, a large number of sites that seriously affect the public health and safety and the environment will never be reclaimed. We need to do more and we need to involve our partners in the effort.
MISSION AND PROGRAM DESCRIPTION
The mission of the Reclaim PA program is to maximize reclamation of the Commonwealth’s abandoned mineral extraction legacy. This will be accomplished through:
D R A F T
July 31, 1998
First, and foremost, we must increase public participation in reclamation activities. Our public education and outreach efforts will be directed toward explaining to the public the severity of our mineral extraction legacy, effectively communicating our new focus and accomplishments, and encouraging partnering and public participation.
Second, we have identified, and are developing, 16 program initiatives that will facilitate increased reclamation activities. These initiatives fall into four categories:
Third, we must encourage the development and utilization of "Green Remining and Reclamation Technologies" that will increase the effectiveness and reduce the cost of AML reclamation and AMD remediation activities. New technologies that can facilitate AML reclamation and AMD remediation are important tools to this effort and must be nurtured and supported.
Summaries of our public education and outreach activities, the 16 program initiatives, and the Green Remining and Reclamation Technologies, are discussed in more detail in the report. These initiatives,
utilizing progressive technology, in conjunction with an energetic public education, outreach and partnering campaign, will significantly increase the rate at which these problems will be addressed, and ensure that we are directing our resources at the most critical problems.
Several of the initiatives have been identified as priorities for implementation. A brief description of the status of each follows:
This legislation will encourage volunteer reclamation and water pollution abatement by limiting civil and environmental liability. DEP will approve sites for coverage under the Act. The legislation was introduced as House Bill 2613 on May 11, 1998. Program guidance and an outreach plan are under development.
This will encourage the coal industry to remine sites with pre-existing discharges by shifting the monitoring points from the discharges to a downstream point. Our remining history supports this proposal. Adequate safeguards have been developed. EPA and the coal industry are supportive of the concept. This will initially be implemented through Consent Orders and Agreements. Initial implementation sites are being located. This initiative will generate the largest increase in AML reclamation through remining.
This will change the definition of GFCCs to eliminate the 50% government funding requirement, thus allowing No Cost Contracts (NCCs) to be considered GFCCs. Additional AML reclamation by the coal industry through NCCs will be facilitated. This proposal is being implemented through an OSM Title IV AML Program Plan Amendment which was initially submitted to OSM on November 19, 1997. OSM approval is anticipated in the fall of 1998. The coal industry and environmental groups are both supportive of this proposal.
This program, authorized by SMCRA, involves formally designating areas suitable for remining after the Department conducts a geologic-hydrologic study and provides public notice of a final report. The ASFR program pays for more information than ROAP or SOAP and presents this information in a permit module format. The program promotes reclamation through remining and also supports adjacent virgin mining. Continued discussion is needed internally to fully refine all program specifics, following which, public workshops and promotion are needed to advertise its availability.
The CPAMR is an overall guidance tool for planning AML reclamation activities. It was prepared by the Bureau of Abandoned Mine Reclamation, was initially approved in June of 1997 and has been updated as of June of 1998. We are working with other AML funding agencies (EPA, OSM, NRCS, and others), watershed and other local organizations, and other DEP program staff, to get the CPAMR accepted as the guiding document for managing and coordinating reclamation activities. DEP financial support for the AML/AMD efforts of the Eastern Pennsylvania Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation and Western Pennsylvania Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation should be developed. Significant staff resources will need to be committed to the CPAMR effort.
In conjunction with the DEP PENN Project, the MRM Deputate is developing a consolidated GIS and a Web-based Reclamation Clearinghouse. Significant staff resources and moderate equipment/contract costs will be required to fully implement these initiatives over the next one to two years. These initiatives will greatly enhance our information management capabilities as well as public access to our data.
The federal government has collected over $1.2 billion more in AML fees than it has distributed to the States. The AMR Trust Fund Management Plan was developed and provides a mechanism for the federal government to effectively utilize the AMR Trust Fund. We are presently in a very favorable federal budget situation that facilitates convincing Congress to release these funds. A concerted effort, led by Pennsylvania, the Interstate Mining Compact Commission, and the National Association of Abandoned Mine Land Programs is necessary to accomplish this.
This legislation will support the formation of watershed organizations and facilitate local input to development of watershed rehabilitation plans and other reclamation activities. It also establishes a framework to obtain public input to AML/AMD project selection. The legislation was introduced as House Bill 2611 on May 11, 1998. Internal discussions regarding implementation are underway.
The following actions are recommended:
Commit necessary resources to fully achieve the above goals.