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DEP: Reauthorizing Federal Mine Reclamation Fee Critical To Continued Success Of AML Program

DEP told the Citizens Advisory Council Tuesday reauthorization of the federal mine reclamation fee that’s due to expire in 2021 is critical to the continued success of Pennsylvania’s Abandoned Mine Reclamation Program.

The remarks came in a presentation by John Stefanko, Deputy Secretary for Active and Abandoned Mine Operations, who gave an overview of DEP’s mining programs to the Council.

In 2017, DEP was able to complete 41 reclamation projects totalling over 633 acres at a cost of over $19.3 million; $16.3 million of that funding was from the federal Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund financed by the fee.  Another 122 projects are in process.

In addition, he said, DEP completes between 50 and 100 emergency reclamation projects every year, almost all supported by federal funding.

Over the last 5 years, DEP completed a total of 1,012 reclamation projects spending a total of over $120.5 million in federal, state and capital budget (for dedicate mine drainage treatment plants) funds.

Since DEP’s abandoned mine reclamation program began in earnest in the mid-1960s, more than 76,391 acres of abandoned mines have been reclaimed at a cost of $661 million.

He said the currently Pennsylvania has nearly 250,000 acres of abandoned mine sites yet to be reclaimed causing over 5,500 miles of streams to be impaired.  (Click Here to see if the stream near you is one.)

Stefanko said for one of the first times mining states are united in the effort to get Congress to reauthorize the federal reclamation fee in a timely way, noting the last time the fee was reauthorized it took 13 years.

He also said Pennsylvania is benefitting from additional federal reclamation funding through the RECLAIM Pilot Program that has given DEP an extra $80 million over the last three years to complete reclamation projects with direct economic benefits.

Stefanko noted there is legislation pending in Congress to make this now pilot program permanent.

He said DEP is also working to support federal legislation to create a Good Samaritan Program designed to encourage reclamation of abandoned mines by operators, watershed groups and others not connected to the abandoned mine site.

Pennsylvania has had a Good Samaritan Program since 1999 that has resulted in 79 acid mine drainage treatment projects in 20 counties all at no cost to taxpayers.

Stefanko also touched on these issues in his presentation and in response to questions from Council members--

-- Impacts Of Underground Coal Mining: The University of Pittsburgh is again doing the 2013-2018 Act 54 report evaluating the surface impacts of underground coal mining on streams and structures.  DEP is also working to address comments made by Council on the last Act 54 Report. 

Stefanko said a kickoff meeting was held in April with Pitt and work is proceeding. [The Council was told in November DEP was aiming to have a draft report by late 2018.]

Stefanko said this Act 54 report will cost about $800,000 and it is increasingly difficult for DEP to fund that level of effort.  He said DEP will be reviewing Act 54 to determine what kinds of information absolutely has to be in the report with the hopes of cutting costs in the future.

DEP is also reviewing a draft report by the U.S. Geological Survey on flow measurements in small watersheds that may have been impacted by underground coal mining.

-- Active Mine Regulation: Stefanko provided a current profile of active mining in the state regulated by DEP: 127 surface bituminous coal mines, 55 surface anthracite coal mines, 39 underground coal mines, 8 underground anthracite coal mines, 15 underground non-coal mines, 1,800 to 2,000 surface non-coal mines, 40 anthracite refuse piles, 14 bituminous refuse piles, 13 tourist mines and caves and 10 underground storage facilities (former mines).

DEP completes about 22,000 surface and deep mine inspections annually and issues about 650 permits.

-- Coal Production Increase: Stefanko noted coal production increased 18 percent in 2017 over 2016 primarily due to the export market and increased demand for metallurgical coal.

-- Mine Subsidence Insurance: He noted his Deputate also administers the state Mine Subsidence Insurance Program that issued 61,000 insurance policies to protect homeowners and businesses from mine subsidence caused by abandoned underground coal and clay mines.

Click Here for a copy of Stefanko’s presentation.  Visit DEP’s Active and Abandoned Mine Operations webpage for more information on these programs.

Transition Paper

The Council has begun work on what it called a transition paper to provide to the individual elected Governor in November.  The paper will identify key issues the Council believes the Governor and the General Assembly should address related to DEP programs and administration.

The next meeting of the Council is on September 18 which tentatively plans to have a discussion of Pennsylvania’s Chesapeake Bay Program.

Don Welsh, former EPA Region III Administrator, President of the PA Environmental Council, DEP Deputy Secretary for State/Federal Relations, among other positions, serves as Chair of the Citizens Advisory Council.

For more information, visit DEP’s Citizens Advisory Council webpage.  Questions should be directed to Neil Bakshi, DEP Policy Office,

(Photo: Ehrenfeld Mine Reclamation Project, Cambria County.)


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Related Stories:

John Dawes Urges Congress To Reauthorize Federal Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fee

EPCAMR: Tell Congress To Act NOW On Bill To RECLAIM PA’s Abandoned Mines

DEP, Trout Unlimited Testify At U.S. House Hearing On Good Samaritan Bill To Encourage Mine Reclamation

Related Story This Week:

Trout Unlimited Requests Proposals For Acid Mine Drainage Technical Assistance Program Consultants

Take Action:

How Good Is The Water Quality In Streams In Your Community?  Take A Look, Then Act

[Posted: July 18, 2018]


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