Community Organizations Applaud Action in Congress to Advance Bipartisan Bill to Address Acid Mine Drainage Crisis
The STREAM Act Moves Closer to Passage that Would Ensure Funding from Bipartisan Infrastructure Package Can Be Used to Clean Up Long-Term Water Pollution Issues
APPALACHIA — Today, the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources held a mark-up of the Safeguarding Treatment for the Restoration of Ecosystems from Abandoned Mines (STREAM) Act — bipartisan legislation that would guarantee that major new investments in abandoned mine land clean up can be directed to address the acid mine drainage (AMD) crisis that threatens waterways across the country. The bill was then passed out of committee with unanimous support.
“The bipartisan STREAM Act is crucial to maximizing the impact of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding,” said Chelsea Barnes, Legislative Director for Appalachian Voices. “The bill will allow for improved environmental and human health in coal mining areas, and also open up opportunities for the outdoor recreation economy that many Appalachian communities are trying to build up. Congress must prioritize passage of the STREAM Act to ensure that states can begin to plan for acid mine drainage treatment as part of their long term abandoned mine land grant planning.”
“Acid mine drainage is one of the most visible and costly impacts of coal mining, turning community waterways rust orange with dangerous pollution and threatening the health of people and wildlife,” Sierra Club Senior Organizing Representative Bonnie Swinford said. “The Sierra Club applauds Congressmen Matt Cartwright and David McKinley for introducing this important, bipartisan legislation, and we now call upon Congress to continue to advance the STREAM Act and ensure critical funds from the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment, and Jobs Act can address harmful, long-term acid mine drainage.”
The STREAM Act was introduced in March by Rep. Matt Cartwright (PA) and Rep. David McKinley (WV). A companion bill in the Senate was also introduced by Sen. Bob Casey (PA) and Sen. Mike Braun (IN). The bill addresses a technical issue in the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. While that legislation secured $11.3 billion in critically important investments for coal communities via the Abandoned Mine Lands (AML) program, a limitation on this funding that does not exist in the current AML program prevents these investments from being put in set-aside accounts for the long-term treatment of AMD. The STREAM Act provides a simple fix to that issue, ensuring states can use these investments for the perpetual treatment that acid mine drainage requires.
“It’s heartening to see Congress, in this effort led by Congressman Matt Cartwright, put partisan differences aside and take this important action that brings us one step closer to cleaning up our streams for future generations,” said Dana Kuhnline, Campaign Manager for ReImagine Appalachia.
“We have acid mine drainage facilities across the eastern and western regions of our state,” said Rebecca Shelton, Director of Policy & Organizing for Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center in Whitesburg, Kentucky. “This funding will help ensure that those facilities can continue to be maintained and create opportunities to build new facilities. AMD has been low on the AML problem priority list for many years and therefore hasn’t had the investment needed to even begin to address the scale of the problem.”
Coal mines that have been shuttered for decades are still polluting streams, rivers, creeks, and lakes in coal-impacted communities across the country, turning bodies of water red or orange due to a chemical reaction that creates acid mine drainage. Acid mine drainage never goes away and requires ongoing water treatment – and innovative solutions spurred by investments in AMD clean-up create jobs and help revitalize local economies. That’s why the current AML program allows states to set aside 30% of AML funding each year into accounts that accrue interest and can cover these perpetual costs. But when the infrastructure bill and its sizable AML investments were passed last year, it did not include a similar provision. The STREAM Act addresses that oversight, ensuring the new infusion of funding can be used for long-term AMD treatment.
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