Safeguarding Treatment for the Restoration of Ecosystems From Abandoned Mines Act

Floor Speech

Date: July 28, 2022
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. CARTWRIGHT. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman from California for yielding time.

I am addressing H.R. 7283, the Safeguarding Treatment for the Restoration of Ecosystems from Abandoned Mines Act, or the STREAM Act. It has been accurately described up to now as a responsible, commonsense, technical fix to the Department of the Interior's Abandoned Mine Lands Reclamation Program. It is a small change, but it will have a large, long-lasting, positive effect on State efforts to clean up legacy pollution from coal mining.

Specifically, the bill allows States to hold back 30 percent of existing allocations for long-term operating and maintenance costs of abandoned mine land reclamation.

When rainwater and river water runs over oxidized pyrite in abandoned coal mines, it turns color, and the whole area becomes toxic. The damage can last for hundreds or even thousands of years if nothing is done to fix it.

In my beautiful State of Pennsylvania, acid mine drainage, or AMD, affects over 5,000 miles of waterways. No one wants to live or work near these dead zones in rivers and streams.

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission estimates an annual loss of $29 million in revenue from recreational fishing in such areas.

We know how to fix the problem. Cleaning up acid mine drainage always creates jobs, brings back recreation opportunities, boosts local economies, and makes communities healthier and stronger and much more attractive to visitors and new investments.

Acid mine drainage requires costly, ongoing maintenance, and H.R. 7283 helps pay for that ongoing maintenance. It is not a new idea. The legacy Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation Program, which has been on the books for years, currently allows States to set aside up to 30 percent of their annual regular abandoned mine lands allocation to cover the long-term costs of operating AMD treatment facilities and maintaining them over the long term.

It is optional, and States have to enact their own programs to engage in the program. Eleven States have done so, so far. Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Maryland, Virginia, Tennessee, and Alabama have chosen to do so.

H.R. 7283 opens the innovation door by making up to 30 percent of all AML funds available for such acid mine drainage projects if States want to go that way.

There is no mandate here. It is their choice. Nothing in current law or the STREAM Act is mandatory, and nothing in the bill raises or authorizes any additional Federal spending for abandoned mine land or acid mine drainage work.

What it gives States is the important option of restoring waterways and maintaining those restoration projects for many years to come.

It is a responsible way to spend this money by extending it out over time so that we don't blow it all at once and then let existing mine reclamation areas fall apart. The STREAM Act can take existing Federal allocations for AML cleanup and make it last a very long time.

Mr. Speaker, I thank the ranking member for his support. I thank Representative McKinley, to be sure, for his leadership in the House on this effort, and I thank all the other bipartisan cosponsors of this bill. Mr. Speaker, I urge all Members to support the bill.