Editorials, Opinion

Congress must pass the STREAM Act

At the end of March, Rep. David McKinley cosponsored the House version of the Safeguarding Treatment for the Restoration of Ecosystems from Abandoned Mines Act (STREAM Act).

The bill is simple, but important. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (usually referred to as the infrastructure bill or act) gives $11.3 billion in funding to reclaim abandoned mine lands for 15 years, and West Virginia is expected to receive $700 million over the next five years. As The Dominion Post previously reported, traditional Abandoned Mine Lands funding allows states to set aside up to 30% of their allotment for long-term operations and maintenance of AMD sites, but grants issued using the infrastructure act don’t have that provision. The STREAM Act amends the bill so parties that receive grants under the Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund can save up to 30% of those grants for starting and maintaining acid mine drainage treatment projects.

The infrastructure bill as written creates a “use it or lose it” situation. On one hand, the infrastructure act dollars will allow environmental groups, like Friends of Deckers Creek and Friends of the Cheat, to tackle big projects that have been put off due to lack of money. On the other, groups are hesitant to start projects that will have to be maintained. As FOC Director Amanda Pitzer said, “The new infrastructure money is our Cadillac and we need the gas to put in the car.”

Right now, the STREAM Act and its identical Senate counterpart are both sitting in committee. As one of the original cosponsors, we encourage McKinley, as well as Sens. Shelley Moore Capito and Joe Manchin, to advocate for the STREAM Act in Congress to get it passed soon, so watershed groups can make plans to put the money to good use.