NEWS ** 2 pages ** May 4, 2005
For Immediate Release
Attention: Assignment/Environment/Outdoor Editor
Contact: Chris Wood, VP for Conservation Programs, 703-284-9403
WASHINGTON - Trout Unlimited today praised the work of Sens. Robert C. Byrd (D-WV) and Arlen Specter (R-PA) to extend funding for the Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund for an additional 90 days. A congressional conference committee yesterday included the temporary extension in a supplemental appropriations bill that both houses of Congress are expected to approve by the end of next week.
This action comes in the wake of Trout Unlimited's release of a comprehensive report, Restoring the Wealth of the Mountains: Cleaning Up Appalachia's Abandoned Mines, that documents the extensive amount of remaining restoration work necessary to fully address the ecological damage wrought by abandoned coal mine sites. The report is available at www.tu.org .
In the past 28 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. "Without decisive leadership from Senators Byrd and Specter, the legislation that makes such good work possible could have forever expired," said Chris Wood, Trout Unlimited's Vice President for Conservation Programs. "We are grateful for their dedication to helping the continued healing of coalfield communities scarred by past mining."
"This stop-gap measure is important, but we need a long-term solution," Wood said. "Congress must pass a multi-decade extension of the Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation Fund. More than 7,000 abandoned coal mines remain in need of restoration nationwide. Fewer than 25 percent of the abandoned mine sites in West Virginia have been reclaimed. Pennsylvania alone estimates a $5 billion restoration backlog. And additional sites in Kentucky, Virginia and elsewhere add hundreds of millions of dollars to the price tag for cleaning up after the legacy of coal mining in Appalachia."
"Senator Specter and Senator Byrd understand that the Abandoned Mine Land Fund has brought back to life hundreds of miles of streams and thousands of acres of lands devastated by the effects of abandoned coal mines," Wood said. "Appalachian miners and Appalachian coal carried this country through two World Wars and made our economy the strongest in the world. The people who depend on the region's lands and waters deserve better than mine-scarred landscapes and acid-tainted rivers. Senator Byrd and Senator Specter deserve our thanks."
Trout Unlimited is North America's leading coldwater fisheries conservation organization, with 140,000 members dedicated to the protection and restoration of trout and salmon fisheries and their watersheds.