NEWS RELEASE COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
Dept. of Environmental Protection
Commonwealth News Bureau
Room 308, Main Capitol
Harrisburg, PA 17120
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Michelle Miller
NGA SUPPORTS PENNSYLVANIA’S CALL FOR PROPER USE OF FEDERAL MINE CLEAN UP FUNDS
Gov. Ridge urged other states for support for more money to restore land and water
MILWAUKEE (Aug. 3) – At the request of Gov. Tom Ridge, the National Governor’s Association (NGA) is supporting efforts to get more federal money to reclaim abandoned coal mines.
"Pennsylvania has a proud heritage of coal production that helped fuel the industrial revolution, but past environmental practices left us with one-third of the abandoned mine land problem in the country," Ridge said. "I’m pleased to have the other governors join me in calling on the federal government to stop hoarding and distribute the money that has been collected to help states solve this problem."
At its 1998 annual meeting in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, NGA passed a resolution recommending the proper use of the Abandoned Mine Reclamation (AMR) Fund, a federally held fund used for reclamation of abandoned mines and clean up of water polluted by mine drainage.
An estimated $15 billion is needed to clean up Pennsylvania’s 250,000 acres of abandoned mines and 2,400 miles of water polluted by mine drainage.
"The Governors are aware that federal fiscal circumstances require prudence in setting spending priorities and continue to support efforts to balance the budget," the policy reads. "However, under-funding state grants for abandoned mine reclamation leaves priority health, safety and environmental problems unaddressed and hinders economic development in these areas, which ultimately lowers tax revenues to the federal government."
The AMR Fund was created by federal law in 1977 to reclaim and restore land and water resources affected by coal mining prior to 1977. All annual fund collections, primarily from a 35-cent a ton fee on surface-mined coal and a 15-cent a ton fee on deep-mined coal, are to be given back to the states in the form of grants.
Since the fund’s start, $4.8 billion has been collected from the active mining industry in coal-producing states and tribal areas. Only $3.6 billion of that amount has been given back to states/tribes through grants administered by the federal Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM).
"We deserve the advantage of receiving these federal funds that have been collected expressly for the purpose of reclaiming land scarred by past mining practices so that it can once again be enjoyed as open space or used for other purposes," Ridge said.
Pennsylvania ranks fourth in the nation in active coal production and ranks first in historic coal production. Pennsylvania received $21.3 million from the AMR Fund this year.
NGA is the only bipartisan organization of the nation’s Governors. Through NGA, the Governors identify priority issues and deal collectively with issues of public policy and governance at both the national and state levels. Gov. Ridge serves as chair of NGA’s Committee on Human Resources and is a member of the Children’s Task Force.
For more information about Pennsylvania’s abandoned mine lands, visit Pennsylvania’s website at www.state.pa.us or visit DEP directly at www.dep.state.pa.us (choose Information by Subject/Mining and Mineral Resources/ Abandoned Mine Reclamation).
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