Pennsylvania will be one of six states awarded federal grants for economic development projects in coal communities under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, receiving upwards of $26.6 million, according to an announcement from the US Department of the Interior.
The grants are part of the Abandoned Mine Land Economic Revitalization (AMLER) grant program, which plans to award more than $122.5 million to communities across the nation. By reclaiming abandoned mine lands (AML), the grant projects seek to redevelop unused, hazardous mining sites into business opportunities, recreation centers, and solar farming, among other plans, while providing good-paying union jobs that stimulate economic activity.
“AMLER grants are community-driven projects that rehabilitate degraded and hazardous sites, while creating new economic opportunities and good-paying jobs for coal communities,” announced Laura Daniel-Davis, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals. “We have already seen the impact of this program – with projects that are creating the foundation for economic opportunity for years to come.”
The program, which has supplied the commonwealth with $25-30 million annually since 2016, also plans to help communities eliminate dangerous environmental conditions and pollution caused by coal mining in the past.
“I know first-hand what it looks like to live near a toxic, abandoned mine,” said Secretary Deb Haaland. “In communities like my Pueblo of Laguna, people deal with the serious risks to our environment and our health that these legacy pollution sites pose. We have a once-in-a-generation investment to address these sites with an eye toward marginalized communities.” Haaland thanks the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for providing grants to revitalize these communities, adding, “I believe the reclamation landscape of tomorrow presents endless opportunities for innovation, efficiency and partnership.”
Millions of Americans live less than a mile away from an abandoned coal mine or unused gas and oil well, and AML reclamation projects invest in communities by facilitating the closing of dangerous mine shafts, reclaiming unstable slopes, improving water quality by treating acid mine drainage, and restoring water supplies damaged by mining. AML funding also helps address and remedy leaking methane from abandoned mines, a substance that contributes heavily to climate change.
Gov. Tom Wolf (D) announced in January that 13 former coal mining sites will receive funding through the program’s most recent allocation, including two projects in Washington County where mine construction will be demolished and buried, waterways will be cleaned, and soil acidity will be neutralized to encourage vegetation growth. One site will be replaced with a green space and walking path while the other will be remade into a privately-owned storage facility.
Programs like AMLER will improve the environment and living conditions for people in the commonwealth while incentivizing economic activity with new jobs and business opportunities.