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Manchin, Capito, sign onto Senate bill to allow infrastructure act money to be used for acid mine drainage projects

MORGANTOWN — Sen. Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito jointly announced on Tuesday that they’ve signed on to the Senate version of legislation to enable Infrastructure and Jobs Act money to be used to address acid mine drainage projects.

The bill is called the STREAM Act: Safeguarding Treatment for the Restoration of Ecosystems from Abandoned Mines.

The House version was introduced at the beginning of April by Reps. David McKinley, R-W.Va., and Matt Cartwright, R-Pa.

It addresses an oversight in the infrastructure bill, which allots $11.3 billion in funding to reclaim abandoned mine lands for 13 years. About $700 million has been allotted for AML projects in West Virginia that will be dispersed over the next five years. All told, the legislation includes more than $1 billion for West Virginia to address its 140,355 acres of AML sites and more than 1,500 miles of streams contaminated from acid mine drainage.

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 funds would go into an interest-bearing account and require annual reporting on the use and amount of funds set aside for AMD abatement.

Manchin chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Capito is a ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. They joined on the bill introduced by Sens. Bob Casey, D-Pa., and Mike Braun, R-Ind.

Manchin said, “West Virginia’s coal communities bear the scars of mining the coal that powered our nation to greatness. The STREAM Act will allow West Virginia to use funds from the bipartisan infrastructure law to restore water supplies damaged by mining and acid mine drainage to ensure our communities have safe, clean water for drinking and recreation. … I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to get it across the finish line and signed into law.”

Capito said, “One of the key wins we secured in our bipartisan infrastructure law was significant funding to clean up abandoned mine lands across West Virginia. Acid mine drainage continues to pose serious health and safety risks in those communities with a proud tradition of coal mining. This bipartisan legislation would enable states receiving funds to specifically target and address the challenges presented by acid mine drainage, including water pollution.”

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