Wyoming’s Don Newton Testifies on Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation before U.S. Senate

November 9, 2023

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), ranking member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources (ENR), welcomed Mr. Don Newton, Administrator of the Abandoned Mine Land (AML) Division of the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality. Mr. Newton testified before the committee detailing Wyoming’s work to reclaim abandoned mine sites and the various challenges involved in implementing the abandoned mine reclamation program.

Ranking member Barrasso introduced Mr. Newton to the committee prior to his testimony.

“Thanks, Don, for coming all the way from Cheyenne, Wyoming,” said Senator Barrasso.  “He has worked to protect Wyoming’s communities from environmental hazards for nearly twenty years. He has a bachelor’s degree in Geology from the University of Louisiana, and he also studied Environmental Pollution Control at Penn State University. He has served the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality since 2004, back when I was in the State Senate and he is recently elected as the Treasurer and the Secretary for the National Association of Abandoned Mine Land Programs. Congratulations, Don, on that election, thanks for sharing your experience and insights with the committee today, and all of us look forward to your testimony.”

Mr. Newton is the Administrator of the Abandoned Mine Land Division at the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality. He has experience working with local, state, and federal government agencies across environmental disciplines, including groundwater, surface water, watershed protection, and abandoned mine land reclamation. Don was also recently elected as the Secretary Treasurer for the National Association of Abandoned Mine Land Programs, addressing mine reclamation issues across the United States. He is a co-founder of the AML Native Plants Project, which seeks to improve the success of vegetation on reclaimed mine sites.

Click here to watch ranking member Barrasso’s full introduction.

In his written testimony, Mr. Newton spoke on Wyoming’s success in mitigating threats to public health and safety, and outlined the challenges the AML program faces from the Biden Administration’s new and burdensome reporting requirements.

“The AML Division in Wyoming provides real benefits to the state. This includes the mitigation of hazards while creating jobs and associated economic benefits for communities near AML sites that face their own economic challenges… Between 500 – 800 people are employed in Wyoming through AML reclamation projects annually. These projects also provide an economic benefit to communities surrounding those projects through the purchase of such things as fuel and other necessary project materials,” Newton said.

In addition, Mr. Newton also discussed Wyoming’s unique AML program and highlighted the need to run these programs as efficiently as possible, without unnecessary red tape.

“The reclamation challenges we face in Wyoming are very different than West Virginia or Pennsylvania because of topography, soil conditions, and rainfall…Wyoming runs an efficient, lean program and is always willing to participate in any efforts to improve the quality of the program… To gain the greatest benefit from the use of the funds, the entire process at the federal and state levels needs to be as efficient as possible” said Newton.  “Adding unnecessary requirements, such as reporting on non-essential metrics or revising state reclamation plans, provides no meaningful benefit to the value of our work.”

For more information on Mr. Newton’s testimony and the hearing, click here.