The Bulletin

Virginia can now apply for $22.8 million in federal mine cleanup funds

By: - August 3, 2022 1:05 pm

Coal piles in Wise County, July 2019. (Sarah Vogelsong/ Virginia Mercury)

The U.S. Interior Department asked states Wednesday to apply for $725 million made available this year to clean up abandoned mine sites as part of the 2021 infrastructure bill.

The department officially opened a notice of funding opportunity, which gives states the avenue to request federal grants to close mine shafts, prevent the release of methane and other gases and treat acidic mine drainage.

Guidance released last month by the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, an agency within Interior, also called for states to prioritize employment opportunities for coal workers.

The infrastructure law gave the department $11.3 billion for mine cleanup grants to be distributed over 15 years.

Of the $725 million in new funding next year for Abandoned Mine Lands grants, more than one-third could go to Pennsylvania, which is eligible for $244.9 million.

West Virginia, eligible for $140.75 million, is the only state other than Pennsylvania to be eligible for more than $100 million. Virginia can draw up to $22.8 million.

The Navajo Nation would also be eligible for $1.7 million from the fund.

The extra funding represents a huge boost for OSMRE’s abandoned mine cleanup efforts.

In fiscal 2022, OSMRE sent a total of $243.1 million to all states and tribes in the program, with $153.1 million funded mostly with fees paid by active coal miners and $90 million in additional federal grants. Pennsylvania had the highest allocation, with $38.1 million.

The extra funding in the infrastructure law was meant to both eliminate pollution from mining sites and provide job opportunities in communities that have historically relied on coal mining.

“Through this program, we are investing in coal communities through job creation — including for current and former coal workers — and economic revitalization, all while addressing harmful environmental impacts from these legacy developments,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a statement.

In Virginia, Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin said that “creating jobs in coal-impacted communities is a priority and through the reclamation and repurposing of these mined lands, we hope to see additional economic activity for properties that can become suitable for development.”

According to a July release from the governor’s office, Virginia’s abandoned mine land program has created 792 jobs since 2017, with 100 jobs typically created every five years. The new funding is expected to create more than 1,000 jobs.

Virginia Department of Energy Director John Warren said the funds will allow the agency to clean up over 80% of the abandoned mine land inventory the state has had since its AML program began in 1981.

Mercury Editor Sarah Vogelsong contributed to this story.

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Jacob Fischler
Jacob Fischler

Jacob covers federal policy as a senior reporter for States Newsroom. Based in Oregon, he focuses on Western issues. His coverage areas include climate, energy development, public lands and infrastructure.