MORGANTOWN – Reps. David McKinley, R-W.Va., and Matt Cartwright, R-Pa., joined to introduce a bill in the U.S. House to ensure that Abandoned Mine Lands funding included in the bipartisan infrastructure bill can be used for acid mine drainage cleanup projects.
The bill is called the STREAM Act: Safeguarding Treatment for the Restoration of Ecosystems from Abandoned Mines.
It addresses an oversight in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which allots $11.3 billion in funding to reclaim abandoned mine lands for 15 years. About $700 million has been allotted for AML projects in West Virginia that will be dispersed over the next five years.
Friends of the Cheat told The Dominion Post about the oversight last week and McKinley’s office explained it. Traditional AML funding allows states to set aside up to 30% of their allotment for long-term operations and maintenance of AMD sites. But the infrastructure act failed to specify that.
This created uncertainty for watershed groups – uncertainty that they could maintain AMD projects if they started them.
This bill fixes the problem by mirroring existing AML law to also allow states to set aside up to 30% of funding for AML restoration projects undertaken with infrastructure act money.
The STREAM Act has been referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources. Sens Bob Casey, D-Pa., and Mike Braun, R-Ind., have introduced a sister bill with the same name in the Senate.
The lawmakers note that West Virginia has more than 173,000 acres of unreclaimed mine lands – which is more than half the size of New York City – and there are more than 2,500 miles of contaminated streams as a result of AMD.
McKinley said, “Acid mine drainage from abandoned mines has contaminated creeks and rivers across West Virginia, and remediation can require long-term projects. This bill provides states with the flexibility to set aside AML funding specifically for long-term water treatment so that West Virginia can take full advantage of the funding from the hard infrastructure bill.”
He continued. “Significant investments are being made to clean up Abandoned Mine Lands and the acid mine drainage and we want future generations of West Virginians to enjoy clean water for drinking, fishing and recreation.”
West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Harold Ward said, “West Virginia uses its AMD set-aside account to operate and maintain AML water treatment facilities that have restored over 200 miles of streams and rivers to where they can now support aquatic life. The money in this account is invested, which allows the fund to grow while providing the State the ability to build, operate, and maintain new treatment systems when earnings are sufficient.
“This model allows for the perpetual treatment of impaired waters without placing a financial burden on future generations,” he said. “The ability to contribute the federal infrastructure funds to the set-aside account will allow West Virginia to start reviving the miles of streams impaired by AMD from AML sites across the state.”
Casey commented, “Without the certainty that funding will be available to cover these long-term costs, states will be unlikely to make the necessary investments to restore our vital waterways. This legislation will provide financial certainty for states, enabling them to clean up water pollution and in doing so, improve property values, restore fishing and recreation opportunities, create long-term jobs and support local economies that rely on a clean water supply.”
The Dominion Post asked Sens. Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito – both of whom voted for the infrastructure act and supported the AML funding – if they support the STREAM Act. Both said the bill is new and they are still reviewing it.
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