Funding Available for Abandoned Coal Mine Reclamation
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla., January 9, 2017—The Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) has announced the availability of the Fiscal Year 2017 Abandoned Mine Land (AML) Reclamation fund grants, which will provide nearly $2.8 million to Oklahoma to reclaim abandoned coal mines, according to Trey Lam, Executive Director, Oklahoma Conservation Commission. The total distribution is about $207,000 less than what the state would have received without sequestered funding.
Abandoned Mine Land (AML) grants are funded by a fee collected on all coal produced in the United States to help eliminate dangerous conditions and pollution caused by past coal mining. Past AML-funded projects have closed dangerous mine shafts, reclaimed unstable slopes, treated acid mine drainage, and eliminated dangerous water bodies. “We still have much work to do” said Oklahoma AML Program Director Robert Toole. “We continue to discover threats from left-behind mine pits, dangerous highwalls, underground mine subsidence, and hazardous mine openings.”
AML money can help provide jobs to people in Oklahoma and the 16 counties in Eastern Oklahoma where coal mining occurred. According to the National Association of Abandoned Mine Land Programs (NAAMLP), every $1 million in grant funding expended translates into an estimated 40 jobs in areas such as construction, labor, equipment and other services. Oklahoma has received over $52 million in grant funds since the program began. The 16 counties where coal mining occurred in Oklahoma are Atoka, Coal, Craig, Haskell, Latimer, LeFlore, Mayes, McIntosh, Muskogee, Nowata, Okmulgee, Pittsburg, Rogers, Sequoyah, Tulsa and Wagoner.
Through a federal, state, local and private partnership program involving the OSMRE, the Oklahoma Conservation Commission (OCC), local conservation districts, and private landowners, Oklahoma has worked for more than 35 years to address the ongoing threats from lands that were mined and then abandoned before 1977, when the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act took effect. Even with that work completed, more than $122 million of problems remain in the latest inventory of critical items known as Priority 1 and Priority 2 threats.
The AML Reclamation Fund is slated to come to a conclusion in 2021 unless it is reauthorized by Congress, as it was in 2006. The mission of the Oklahoma AML Program is to protect lives, repair scarred land and improve the environment.