February 22, 2022

Funding For W.Va To Address Abandoned Mine Lands

On the morning of Nov. 20, 1968, the Farmington Consol No. 9 mine exploded and 78 brave coal miners lost their lives in the hours that followed.
It was a tragic day that my family, and so many other families, will never forget.
Like many other West Virginians, that disaster was personal to me. I lost my uncle John and several of my classmates and friends. I’ll never forget the look on my mother’s face when she found out her younger brother had died in the explosion.
You can’t tell the history of America without mentioning the enormous contributions our miners and the people of West Virginia have always made and continue to make. For generations, West Virginians like my uncle have made tremendous sacrifices to do the heavy lifting necessary to power our nation to greatness.
They mined the coal that forged the steel that built the guns and ships that led our nation to victory in two world wars. They fueled the industrial revolution and did more than their fair share to build the strongest, most prosperous economy ever. And they’ve done it all knowing the risks they take each and every day.
Our land and communities also bear the scars of these sacrifices. In fact, one in three West Virginians live within one mile of an abandoned mine site and there are at least 6,309 documented orphaned wells scattered across our state.
These sites and wells pollute our lands, rivers, lakes, and streams and jeopardize the health and safety of our people. West Virginians deserve a long-term solution that revitalizes our land and reinvests in our communities.
That’s why when the time came to debate critical investments in our nation’s infrastructure, I fought tirelessly to ensure West Virginia would receive the resources we need to meaningfully address these longstanding problems and protect our communities. After months of robust bipartisan negotiations, my Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act was signed into law, investing billions of dollars into West Virginia.
I worked to ensure that over $11 billion of the historic funding in this bipartisan legislation was set aside to address the abandoned mine lands that plague our nation’s hard-working coal communities, including the 140,355 acres across West Virginia. First, by reauthorizing the abandoned mine lands reclamation fee for another 13 years, we ensured the continued success of a program that has already reclaimed more than 800,000 acres of damaged land and water. Additionally, this legislation will deliver more than $1 billion to West Virginia for projects that will clean up and reinvigorate abandoned mine lands, protecting the health and well-being of these communities and opening the door for new opportunities in outdoor spaces and residential areas alike.
This critical funding will be available for so many important projects. It can be used to finally close dangerous mine shafts so that our children can safely explore the outdoor playground our state has been blessed with. Our friends and neighbors can use the funds to reclaim dangerous slopes near their homes, as was done recently to protect 10 homes in a Harrison County neighborhood. And we can restore water supplies damaged by mining and acid mine drainage, because every West Virginian deserves safe, clean water to drink.
In the years to come, this investment will breathe new life into our rolling hills and the surrounding communities. Restoring the land will not only create good-paying jobs in the short-term, it will also create long-term economic potential too.
From solar farms to state-of-the-art aquaponics centers like Blue Acre in Mingo County, the economic impact of these investments is boundless.
We’re already seeing unprecedented amounts of funding flow into the Mountain State for these crucial projects.
Earlier this month, I announced more than $140 million from the U.S. Department of the Interior to reclaim abandoned mine lands in 2022. That investment is more than seven times the amount West Virginia received last year through the traditional abandoned mine lands program. I also announced that our state is eligible for nearly $142 million to clean up and plug hazardous orphaned oil and gas wells.
We’ve never seen these types of investments in West Virginia. These two announcements and the hundreds of millions of dollars to come in the months and years ahead will enable exciting projects to diversify and strengthen our economy, create new jobs and clean up our communities while reviving our land along the way.
Moving forward, we must work together to ensure we are investing these critical funds in the most efficient and effective way possible. I will continue working with my colleagues in the West Virginia Congressional delegation, Governor Jim Justice, and local officials to ensure this investment in our state is building a brighter future for West Virginia families and communities. West Virginians are the hardest working people in America and we are ready to rebuild and thrive right here at home.

By:  Senator Joe Manchin
Source: Wheeling Intelligencer