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Public Statements

Reclaiming Abandoned Mine Lands

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. THOMPSON of Pennsylvania. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to bring awareness to our Nation's abandoned mine lands.

Our abandoned mine lands desperately need to be reclaimed to prevent harm to our communities and to our environment. When these sites are cleaned up and mines reclaimed, it improves the quality of our air, soil, and water.

Pennsylvania has more abandoned mine sites than any other State in the country. In fact, my district, Pennsylvania's 15th Congressional District, has more abandoned mine sites than each of the remaining 434 congressional districts combined.

This past September, my Democratic colleague from Pennsylvania's Eighth Congressional District, Matt Cartwright, joined me to introduce H.R. 4248, the Abandoned Mine Land Reauthorization Act.

The abandoned mine land trust fund is set to expire in September 2021, and this bill will not only reauthorize the fund for the next 15 years but help spur economic growth in coal communities impacted by mine closures.

For more than 40 years, this program has properly closed more than 46,000 open mine portals. To continue this momentum, the AML trust fund must be reauthorized.

There is still work to be done.

This past month, I had the pleasure of visiting the Anderson Creek watershed in Clearfield County. Reed Johnson, a constituent of mine who has owned property in that area for 30 years, has been working tirelessly ever since to clean up the abandoned mine site on that property.

Mr. Speaker, what was mined on that site was clay, and it was clay that was made to manufacture kiln bricks, the kiln bricks that were used to produce the steel that allowed the industrial revolution to occur and allowed us to provide the arsenal of democracy to win World War I and World War II. But we have a legacy that we need to clean up there.

During that visit, Reed welcomed me, as well as State and local officials, for a tour of the property. One of the other attendees was Clearfield County Conservation District's Watershed Specialist Kelly Williams.

The impact of abandoned mine lands on our environment is obvious, but there are community and economic considerations as well. Ms. Williams underscored the impact that abandoned mine lands have, not only on the environment, but on our communities as a whole.

Outdoor recreation is very popular in the area, specifically, boating and fishing. When abandoned mine lands are left untouched for too long, they have an incredibly damaging impact on local waterways.

When outdoor recreation is a big part of the local economy, our communities feel that financial loss. Ms. Williams estimated that Clearfield County could lose as much as $3 million a year due to this impact.

Reed continues to work to raise awareness about abandoned mine lands. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection says the project would take years to finish, but I know Reed won't stop fighting.

In the meantime, Congress needs to reauthorize the AML trust fund to ensure abandoned mine land sites are reclaimed, our environment is protected, and our communities are safe.

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