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House Natural Resources Committee passes abandoned mine reauthorization bill

The U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources passed a bill to reauthorize the Abandoned Mine Land trust fund, allowing states to continue collecting a fee from coal mine operators to put toward reclaiming abandoned mine sites.

If signed into law, the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act Amendments of 2019 would expand funding for states that lack certification to reclaim high-priority areas, according to a Jan. 15 release from U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Penn., who sponsored the bill. The bill would delegate emergency abandoned mine land programs to states and would reimburse states for program fees that have been sequestered since fiscal 2013, according to the statement.

The congressman said the proposed legislation will help turn the land into "economic opportunities that lead to new jobs and growth." The bill can now advance to the House floor for consideration.

"I have seen firsthand the risks that abandoned mines pose to our community health, our safety, and our economy," Cartwright said. "We can't afford for efforts to clean up these dangerous sites to stall."

The fund is scheduled to expire in fiscal 2021.

Six mining-state Democratic lawmakers introduced a similar bill in 2019 to extend the reclamation fee for abandoned mine land for another 15 years beyond its current expiration date. At the time, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia said funding for abandoned mine land is "a crucial resource" to restoring land. That bill has not moved from the Natural Resources Committee.