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Pennsylvania has third year of $244 million for reclaiming mine lands

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(The Center Square) – Infusions of federal money has accelerated mine cleanup projects in Pennsylvania and across Appalachia. As it stands, almost $4 billion is expected to come to the commonwealth through 2036.

The federal tax dollars, authorized by the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021, will be sent out via grants for projects to create jobs, clean up communities, and preserve the environment.

“We are making historic investments to help revitalize local economies and support reclamation jobs that help put people to work in their communities, all while addressing environmental impacts from these legacy developments,” Department of the Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a release announcing $725 million in funds. “These smart investments will build a cleaner, healthier and more just future for communities across the country.”

In April, Haaland visited Pennsylvania to announce the commonwealth’s $244 million share of the money in Bovard, where mine subsidence projects are happening to prevent damage to the town’s homes and businesses.

Pennsylvania is a hub for mine reclamation funds; it has almost 10,000 abandoned mines statewide, with many of them presenting a threat to nature or people.

Of the more than $11 billion expected to go to states for mine reclamation, more than a third will end up in the commonwealth. Other Appalachian states, like West Virginia and Kentucky, anticipate more than $2 billion and $1 billion, respectively, and Ohio will receive $700 million.

Haaland said those funds will be enough “to enable the reclamation of nearly all current inventoried abandoned mine lands in this country.”

The money available for reclamation has dramatically increased; in 2021, federal funding was $27 million. Since 2022, federal funding has been $244 million annually.

“The past year has been historic for mine restoration,” Eric Dixon, senior researcher at the Ohio River Valley Institute, said in a release. “We saw some of the first AML contracts awarded to union firms in states like Kentucky and Ohio, bringing good-paying jobs and skilled labor to bear healing Appalachia’s damaged hillsides and polluted streams.”

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., has made cleaning up abandoned mines a priority; 43 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties have at least one.

“Too many Pennsylvania communities still face the environmental hazards of abandoned mine land – polluted waterways, property damage, and underground mine fire,” Casey said in a press release. “Thanks to this funding, we can keep cleaning up this land, protecting our environment, and delivering a boost to Pennsylvania local economies with new, good-paying jobs.”

State leaders, too, have pushed for more action on mine lands. The Department of Environmental Protection last week released a report saying 169,000 acres of abandoned mine lands could host solar energy projects. In March, federal officials sent $90 million for Pennsylvania’s largest solar project to rise on former mine lands.

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