West Virginia’s Office of Abandoned Mine Lands and Reclamation will receive $66.5 million in federal grant money for 2012 to eliminate health and safety hazards created by historical coal mining.
West Virginia’s share comes from the nearly half a billion dollars in grants the U.S. Office of Surface Mining (OSM) is awarding state AML programs to address issues associated with pre-law mining. Funding for AML grants is generated through fees placed on coal mined both above and underground and is distributed to states through a congressionally mandated formula under the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) of 1977.
A 2006 amendment to SMCRA called for a phase-in of increased funding for AML programs. Because of that increase, West Virginia will receive its highest funding amount ever in 2012, said Eric Coberly, who directs the state’s AML program for the Department of Environmental Protection.
West Virginia grant money will be used for reclamation projects, eliminating acid mine drainage in state streams and extending waterlines to communities in need of clean drinking water. Funding is set aside, as well, for emergency projects. Coberly said West Virginia currently has about 40 reclamation projects in design, worth about $32 million.
“This money will enable us to maximize funding in all areas of our AML program and help us better carry out our mission of improving the quality of life for the citizens of West Virginia,” Coberly said.
West Virginia’s $66.5 million funding amount trails only Wyoming ($150 million) and Pennsylvania ($67.2 million). OSM said AML funding in 2012 will generate more than $1 billion in economic activity and support thousands of jobs across the country.
“When our nation enacted mining reform in 1977, we made a simple and bold promise that the revenues from coal extraction today should help clean up the legacy of coal mining many years ago,” U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said in a news release. “These grants help fulfill that promise, while putting men and women to work across the country on restoration projects that will bring lands back to life, clean up rivers, and leave a better legacy for our children and grandchildren.”