By: Virginia Riddle
$725 million has been budgeted for nearly half the country to clean up abandoned mine lands (AML). Pennsylvania is receiving the largest chunk of these funds, at $245 million. These efforts are projected to not only help with America’s pollution issue but are also expected to provide well-paying union jobs for the workers cleaning.
The cleaning efforts will continue past this year, as the law that allocated these initial funds will be continuing to provide $11.3 billion over the next 15 years. With this, many of the AML that are polluting the environment will be given an opportunity to flourish naturally.
Why is it important to clean AML?
First, AML are everywhere. In a statement supporting the federal funding, Tom Wolf revealed that, “Pennsylvania has more than 5,000 abandoned coal mines.”
In Pennsylvania alone, there are AML in 43 of its 67 counties (information provided by the state Department of Environmental Protection).
U.S Senator, Bob Casey (D), additionally revealed that “…more than 1 million Pennsylvanians live within a mile of an abandoned mine.”
It is easy to see how integrated AML are in Pennsylvania’s land alone, not to mention the remaining states and territories of America. With the funding provided, there is hope that the country can recuperate from the damage done to its land in the past.
How has the Pennsylvania been damaged by AML?
Pennsylvania, a historically known for its steel production, could not have built its legacy without coal. While coal mining is not as big of an industry as it once was – with Pennsylvania mining nearly 100 million tons of anthracite coal every year – it is still a substantial part of the state’s export. Now, with 3 million tons are still mined every year, many of the old mines are abandoned and left to pollute the environment with abandoned mine drainage (polluted water that comes in contact with normal mining activities).
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) details that abandoned mine drainage can come with several issues in substantially lowering the quality of the water, such as allowing high levels of lead or other harmful substances into the water systems. Water polluted in this way generally cannot sustain life and is not able to be consumed.
How will cleaning mines increase jobs?
Simply put, there will need to be workers willing to clean these thousands of abandoned mines across the state and country. With the budget allotted, the jobs are expected to be well-paid positions, though, there are no exact details on how the money will be allocate throughout the larger project. The program also offers job stability, as the mines are projected to be cleaned for the next 15 years.
Senator Bob Casey continued to support this law, both for its environmental and economic benefits, by saying, “For too long we’ve neglected the pressing needs of communities blighted by abandoned and polluted mines. This funding is just the start of what the infrastructure law will bring to Pennsylvania communities to address vital abandoned mine land and water reclamation projects, clean legacy pollution, create jobs and improve Pennsylvanians’ quality of life. I will keep fighting to bring home infrastructure investments to the Commonwealth and to ensure we are able to remediate acid mine drainage, ensuring all Pennsylvania families have access to clean water.”
Image Credit: The Record Online