June 15, 2016
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Steve Moyer, firstname.lastname@example.org, (703) 284-9406
Kate Miller, email@example.com, (703) 489-6411
Trout Unlimited lauds committee approval of Good Sam provisions
(Washington, D.C.) Today, the House Natural Resources committee approved the Good Sam provisions of HR 3843 and HR 3844, which address the chronic problems of abandoned mine pollution of our nations rivers and streams. HR 3844, the BLM Foundation Establishment Act, introduced by Rep. Hice of Georgia, establishes the BLM Foundation to facilitate cleanup of abandoned mine lands (AML) and orphaned oil and gas well sites and help the Bureau of Land Management and non-profit organizations raise funds for the purpose of AML cleanup on both federal and non-federal lands. HR 3843, the Locatable Minerals Claim Location and Maintenance Fees Act, introduced by Subcommittee Chairman Lamborn of Colorado, establishes Good Samaritan permits that incentivize private sector remediation of abandoned mine land by providing limited liability protections for industry and non-profit groups equipped with the technical expertise to deal competently with abandoned mine lands.
Trout Unlimited issued the following statement from Steve Moyer, TUs vice president of government relations:
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.
We appreciate Chairman Lamborns efforts to find legislative solutions to increase the pace and scale of cleanup of abandoned mines across the nation. The Good Sam provisions of HR 3843 and HR 3844, approved by the House Natural Resources Committee today, are positive steps. We urge the Committee to work in a bipartisan fashion to pass these bills, to reauthorize Title IV of the coal abandoned mine program, and to consider other steps to fix the abandoned mine problems we face across the nation.
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 cleanup 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. Second, local communities, private interests, and groups such as TU need protection from the liability associated with cleaning up abandoned mines.
This legislation takes significant steps toward those goals.
On HR 3843: Trout Unlimited appreciates that the Good Samaritan provisions of HR 3843 Title III would provide a mechanism for coal abandoned mine projects to receive Good Samaritan protection as well as hardrock cleanup projects. TU also appreciates the formal authorization of the BLM abandoned mine program in Title II, and the direction to BLM to identify Good Samaritan projects.
On HR 3844: Trout Unlimited agrees that authorizing a private/public fundraising foundation is a good concept, and provisions of HR 3844 are promising. Passage of HR 3844 should in no way obviate the need for Congress to find an analog for Western hardrock mining similar in size and scope to the coal AML program. Representatives DeFazio and Grijalva have developed 1872 Mining Law reform bills which contain this type of provision.
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 get a bill introduced and on a track to move through Congress so that affected communities around the country will again 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.