June 20, 2006
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Amy Wolfe, (570) 726-3118
ARLINGTON, VA – Congress last week sent a supplemental spending bill to the President that includes a short-term extension of the Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund, which provides funding for the clean-up of abandoned coal mine sites. The legislation will extend the existing program through September 30, 2007. It was scheduled to expire at the end of this month.
“We applaud Senator Byrd for his continued leadership on this issue,” said Amy Wolfe, director of TU’s Abandoned Mine Programs. “The AML fund has enabled the restoration of hundreds of miles of Appalachian rivers that have been rendered lifeless by coal mining. The extension of this funding will assure that this good work will continue into the future.”
Over the past 29 years, coal companies have paid about $7 billion into a fund administered by the Office of Surface Mining and the states to protect human health and safety and to restore lands degraded by coal mining. Mine adits have been sealed, water supplies protected, rivers restored and communities made safer.
“The AML Fund has allowed us to install treatment systems that make a real difference to the health of our local streams,” said Tom Shetterly, member of TU’s Chestnut Ridge Chapter. “Over the past two years, we have received over $250,000 from OSM and the state to install treatment systems on Glade Run. These systems have allowed us to establish a naturally reproducing brook trout population in Glade Run and improve water quality in neighboring Dunbar Creek.”
“While this stop-gap measure is critical, we need a long-term solution,” Wolfe said. “Congress must pass a multi-decade extension of the Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation Fund in order to reclaim the thousands of abandoned coal mines still in need of restoration nationwide.”
The drainage from abandoned coal mine sites is the largest source of pollution in Pennsylvania’s waterways. Often acidic and laced with toxic metals, abandoned mine drainage degrades drinking water, diminishes aquatic habitat and threatens fish and wildlife.
Trout Unlimited is one of the leaders in the effort to clean up the legacy of Appalachia’s abandoned coal mines. In Pennsylvania, TU recently launched a restoration project on the West Branch Susquehanna. This project is an expansion of TU’s successful restoration work on Kettle Creek, where TU has been working with the Kettle Creek Watershed Association and numerous other partners to implement abandoned mine drainage abatement projects in the lower portion of the watershed. In addition, TU recently released a report highlighting the extent of abandoned mine drainage problems throughout the Appalachians, “Restoring the Wealth of the Mountains: Cleaning up Appalachia’s Abandoned Mines.”
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