June 17, 2020
Bill reauthorizes fee collection for seven years, prioritizes cleanup of the most environmentally hazardous abandoned mine sites, and lowers the fee by 35% to provide relief to coal producers as production declines.
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senators John Barrasso and Mike Enzi, both R-Wyo., introduced legislation to reauthorize and modernize the collection of the Abandoned Mine Land (AML) Reclamation fee. The AML fee collection authority is set to expire in September 2021.
The Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation Fee Reauthorization Act prioritizes using $2.2 billion in previously collected AML fees to reclaim the most environmentally hazardous abandoned mine sites in America. The bill will make it easier for local conservation groups to partner with state and local agencies to fund and conduct reclamation activities.
The measure also reauthorizes collection of the AML fee for an additional seven years, while providing relief to coal operators from the impact of declining coal production in the United States.
“Abandoned Mine Land (AML) fees provide critical resources needed to reclaim the most environmentally hazardous mine sites across America. There are thousands of these expensive sites left to clean up. Releasing the $2.2 billion in AML fees already collected will reinforce our commitment to making the reclamation of these sites our top priority,” Barrasso said. “Lowering the fee level will give coal producers the relief they need to stay in business and continue to create revenue for abandoned mine cleanup. Nearly 15 years have passed since Congress last updated the AML program. Extending the program and releasing already collected AML fees will go a long way in tackling the cleanup of these coal mines.”
“The Abandoned Mine Land program has provided crucial funding for coal-producing states like Wyoming over the years,” Enzi said. “Reauthorizing the AML fee would ensure that our country can continue the important reclamation of these environmentally hazardous mine sites while making timely improvements to the program. By lowering the collection fee and releasing more than $2 billion in already collected fees for the most hazardous mine sites, we can help provide much needed relief for coal producers while strengthening the program’s reclamation efforts.”
The Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation Fee Reauthorization Act reauthorizes the collection of the Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation fee. This fee is assessed on each ton of coal produced. States are to receive one half of the fee collected from coal production in their state and the other 50% is the federal share which is also used for mine reclamation. The fee is deposited into the Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation Trust Fund (known as the “AML fund”). It is disbursed each year to states and tribes to reclaim mine sites that operated prior to 1977 and have no existing responsible owner.
Fee collection is authorized by the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (SMCRA). There are 25 approved AML programs overseen by the Office of Surface Mining and Reclamation Enforcement (OSMRE), an agency within the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI).
According to OSMRE, there are 6,679 unfunded reclamation projects. The cost to reclaim these sites is estimated to be $12.5 billion. This bill will facilitate the reclamation of the most environmentally hazardous sites across the country while providing important updates to the AML program.
The AML Fee authorization expires on Sept. 30, 2021. The Barrasso-Enzi bill reauthorizes fee collection for seven years, until Sept. 30, 2028. It also lowers the per-ton AML fee for all categories of coal by 35%.
The proposed legislation pays down the $2.2 billion balance of the AML fund in installments of $140 million per year over 15 years. These “accelerated grants” would be paid to uncertified states and may be used for the reclamation of the most environmentally hazardous sites.
The bill also includes a provision championed by Rep. Darin LaHood (R-IL-18) that authorizes states to establish partnerships with non-governmental organizations in their communities to reclaim certain projects.