OSM provides $305M to clean abandoned coal mines

“CONGRESSIONAL inaction” has been cited for the US Office of Surface Mining’s (OSM) shrunken annual budget of $305 million that has been made available for eligible states and tribes to make strides with post-mining remediation.

Donna Schmidt

More than $339.4 million was available for distribution, but sequestration – 8% in comprehensive spending cuts be the US government set to go into place on March 1 – has left the OSM with just 90% of that amount.

Twenty-eight coal-producing states and tribes receive annual abandoned mine land (AML) grants, which are funded in part by a per-ton reclamation fee levied on all coal produced in the US. Additional funding comes from the US Treasury.

Receiving the most funds are Pennsylvania and West Virginia, with $58,547,563 and $56,477,981, respectively. They were to receive $65,052,848 and $62,753,312.

Also receiving large amounts of funding for cleanup efforts are Kentucky ($40,237,689 instead of $44,708,542), Illinois ($21,493,599 instead of $23,881,776), Montana ($11,739,628 instead of $13,044,032) and Wyoming ($13.5 million instead of $15 million).

The Navajo Nation will have access to $6,469,908 instead of the planned $7,188,786.

The money helps the states and tribal entities correct environmental damage from past mining, including reclaiming unstable slopes, improving water quality by treating acid mine drainage and restoring water supplies damaged by mining as well as other efforts.

“The AML grant funds are important to states and tribes to eliminate dangerous mines and restore abandoned mine lands,” OSM director Joe Pizarchik said, noting that the holdback of the 10% in anticipation of the sequester will have impacts on communities and the environment.

He said about 50 abandoned mine land projects would not be reclaimed.

“This will impact an estimated 22,500 citizens who will continue to be exposed to mine-related hazards such as open mine shafts and portals, mine fires, dangerous highwalls, landslides and mine subsidence,” Pizarchik added.

“More than 1800 acres of polluted or degraded mine lands will not be cleaned up, and more than $4.3 million will not be set aside for cleanup of mine-related water pollution.

“There are economic impacts as well. The reduction in funds means a reduction in contracts and jobs in the local community.”