(The Center Square) – Pennsylvania is set to receive $244.9 million this year through the federal infrastructure law to clean up abandoned mines across the commonwealth.
The funding, announced this week by Gov. Tom Wolf, is the most by far of the 22 states and Navajo Nation that will receive a total of $725 million this fiscal year. The funding comes through the recent infrastructure law approved by Congress, which allocated a $11.3 billion to reclaim abandoned mine lands over the next 15 years.
“We’ve long needed a solution to accelerate work to address the environmental and public health concerns of our legacy energy development,” Wolf said. “I’m pleased that the Biden Administration shares my commitment to reclaiming Pennsylvania’s abandoned mine-land for productive use. This bipartisan investment will address the dangers of abandoned mines while simultaneously supporting new, good-paying jobs, economic recovery, and community revitalization.”
The funding is intended to close open mine shafts, reclaim unstable slopes, improve water quality by treating acid mine drainage and restore water supplies damaged by mining, with a focus on prioritizing projects that employ dislocated coal industry workers, according to an announcement from the U.S. Department of the Interior.
Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in January during a stop in Luzerne County that unlike previous grants, the new funding can be used to design, build, operate, maintain and rehabilitate acid mine drainage treatment facilities, a crucial element to restore waterways and wildlife habitats.
A 2018 report from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection identified 5,597 “individual problem areas” involving abandoned mines, with a total unfunded remediation cost of more than $5 billion. The department has documented abandoned mines in 43 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties.
U.S. Sen. Bob Casey noted that one-third of the nation’s abandoned mine lands are in Pennsylvania, according to the Interior’s mine land inventory system. He also highlighted the impact the funding will have on the 1.4 million Pennsylvanians who live within a mile of an abandoned mine.