Trout Unlimited cheers House approval of bill to help fund abandoned mine cleanup

July 6, 2016


Contact: Steve Moyer,, (703) 284-9406

Kate Miller,, (703) 489-6411

(Washington, D.C.) Last night, the House of Representatives approved HR 3844, the Bureau of Land Management Foundation Act. Sponsored by Rep. Jody Hice of Georgia and Rep. Alan Lowenthal of California, the bill would facilitate cleanup of abandoned mine lands (AML) and orphaned oil and gas well sites on federally managed lands. Trout Unlimited issued the following statement from Steve Moyer, TUs vice president of government relations:

It is a good day for abandoned mine cleanup legislation. We applaud the leadership of Representatives Hice and Lowenthal, and Chairman Lamborn, for working to find legislative solutions to increase the pace and scale of cleanup at abandoned mines across the nation. HR 3844, approved by the House today, is a positive step.

Trout Unlimiteds mission is to conserve, protect and restore North Americas trout and salmon fisheries and the watersheds they depend on. In pursuit of this mission, TU has worked to restore streams and rivers damaged by pollution from abandoned mines from the Appalachian coal fields in Pennsylvania to the hardrock mining areas of the Rocky Mountain states.

The 3 million gallon spill of polluted water from the Gold King mine near Silverton, Colorado, in August 2015, drew national attention. Less well-known are the thousands of similar, smaller-scale abandoned mines that pollute our rivers and streams every day. The lesson from Gold King is that we need a much greater sense of urgency about addressing the problem of pollution from abandoned mines all over the nation.

Abandoned hardrock mines affect 40 percent of headwaters in the Western United States. The lack of dedicated funding sources and burdensome liability risk for would-be Good Samaritans stalls efforts to clean up these abandoned mine sites.

In the East, pollution from abandoned coal mines continues to damage over 10,000 miles of streams in Pennsylvania and West Virginia alone. In this country, coal companies pay a fee for coal production. A portion of those revenues support the Abandoned Mine Land Fund (AML Fund). Since 1977, more than $8 billion has been put to good use cleaning up and making safe abandoned coal mines. Unfortunately, no similar fund exists to clean up the legacy of hardrock mining, particularly in the Western United States.

We know how to clean up abandoned mines. In Pennsylvania, aided by state-based Good Samaritan policy, Trout Unlimited is working with state agencies, watershed groups and other partners to conduct more than 250 abandoned coal mine pollution cleanup projects.

We could do more of these cleanups. We need two things to get the job done: First, as is the case with coal, a dedicated funding source is needed for cleaning up abandoned hardrock mines. HR 3844 takes a useful step toward increasing the amount of funds available for this work.

Second, local communities, private interests, and groups such as TU need protection from the liability associated with cleaning up abandoned mines. HR 3843, a bill introduced alongside HR 3844 and approved by the committee in the same hearing, would help to provide such protection. We urge the House to pass HR 3843, the Locatable Minerals Claim Location and Maintenance Fees Act of 2015, as soon as possible.

Finally, Congress needs to address the larger funding issue associated with abandoned mine cleanup. Passage of HR 3844 does not eliminate the need for Congress to find an analog for Western hardrock mining similar in size and scope to the coal AML program.

Also, the AML Fund is the lifeblood of funding for abandoned coal mining restoration work in the coal field regions of America, especially in the East. Trout Unlimited, state officials and other stakeholders urge Congress to get started on the task of reauthorizing the AML Fund now to ensure a smooth reauthorization is achieved by 2021.

Trout Unlimited stands ready to work with lawmakers to enact HR 3844 and to advance additional solutions that are necessary to fight the abandoned mine problemincluding passage of Good Sam legislation such as HR 3843, and establishment of increased, stable funding sources. These steps would give affected communities around the country the tools to clean up their polluted waters and have clean, fishable waters.


Trout Unlimited is the nations oldest and largest coldwater fisheries conservation organization, boasting more than 155,000 members from coast to coast. TU works to protect and restore trout and salmon populations and their habitat so future generations can fish for trout and salmon in their home waters. Follow TU on Facebook and Twitter, and on the TU blog.