WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), ranking member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources (ENR), and Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) reintroduced 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 of this year.
“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 has passed since Congress last updated the AML program. Extending the program and releasing already collected AML fees will go a long way toward tackling the cleanup of these coal mines.”
“This legislation strikes the appropriate balance of ensuring a robust abandoned mine cleanup program while supporting the important coal industry that funds it,” said Lummis. “Wyoming coal and coal miners have powered our nation for decades, and we have also been a leader in reclaiming abandoned mine lands. I’m proud to work with Senator Barrasso on introducing the AML Reclamation Fee Reauthorization Act, a bill that will allow for further investment in our states and communities and provide good-paying jobs across the country.”
The AML Reclamation Fee Reauthorization Act will:
- Prioritize using $2.2 billion in previously collected AML fees to reclaim the most environmentally hazardous abandoned mine sites in America;
- Reauthorize AML fee collection for 7 years – allowing Congress a more frequent opportunity to review and modify the AML program;
- Make it easier for local conservation groups to partner with state and local agencies to fund and conduct reclamation activities; and
- Provide relief to coal operators from the impact of declining coal production in the United States.
Read the section-by-section of the AML Reclamation Fee Reauthorization Act here.
Read the text of the AML Reclamation Fee Reauthorization Act here.
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 percent is the federal share which is also used for mine reclamation. The fee is deposited in to 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 28 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 approximately 6,679 unfunded reclamation projects. The cost to reclaim these sites is estimated to be $12.5 billion. This bill will facilitate 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-Lummis 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 40 percent.
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 nongovernmental organizations in their communities to reclaim certain projects.