Origin of the Abandoned Mine Lands Program

Congress enacted the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (SMCRA) on August 3, 1977. A primary purpose of SMCRA was to promote the reclamation of mined areas left without adequate reclamation prior to August 3, 1977 and which continue, in their unreclaimed condition, to substantially degrade the quality of the environment, prevent or damage the beneficial use of land or water resources, or endanger the health or safety of the public. Title IV of SMCRA established the AML Fund to be used for the reclamation and restoration of areas affected by past mining. The Fund is derived from a reclamation fee on clean coal produced by underground and surface coal mining. The AML Fund is supplied with money from active operators mining coal today.

The Tax Relief & Health Care Act of 2006, enacted on December 20, 2006, included the Surface Mine Control & Reclamation Act Amendment of 2006, which made significant changes in the Abandoned Mine Land (AML) Program.

2006 Amendment Changes

  • Reduced fees paid on coal production by 10% (2008-2012) and by 20% from 2013-2021
  • Extended the fee collection until 2021
  • Required mandatory distribution of fee collection to states outside of the appropriation process
  • The 30% cap on waterline project funding was removed
  • Increased the allowable AMD Set-Aside amount from 10% to 30% of state and historical share
  • Required states to focus on the elimination of Priority 1 & 2 sites. This includes the protection of public health, safety, & property.