What’s Being Done
Cleanup efforts are underway on the Federal, State and Tribal levels. Significant attention is being focused on potential future uses of these lands, as well as the economic, environmental, and social benefits that reuse can provide. Supporting reuse may serve as a catalyst for expediting environmental risk reduction.
Abandoned Coal Mines
Federal Agency Lead
Office of Surface Mining (OSM)
U.S. Department of the Interior
OSM was established with the passage of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) of 1977. Most of OSM’s AML program involves collection of reclamation fees from current coal mining operators and awarding reclamation grants to the following States and Tribes with approved programs: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wyoming and the Crow, Hopi and Navajo Tribes. The program has reclaimed almost 240,000 acres of hazardous high-priority coal-related problems. Safety and environmental hazards have been eliminated on almost 315,000 acres containing coal or non-coal problems. Almost 8,000 emergencies have also been addressed.
Since 1977, OSM has provided $4.06 billion in grants to its partners in 24 States and three Indian Tribes to clean up dangerous abandoned mine sites. Since 1999, OSM has funded 161 Watershed Cooperative Agreements with local non-profit watershed organizations totaling $14.1 million. This funding has been leveraged with other resources by these organizations to undertake projects valued at over $45 million. In December 2006, Congress passed the SMCRA Amendments of 2006 (P.L. 109-432). The amendments modified the AML grant allocation formula so that approximately 83% of coal reclamation fee collections will now be available annually for States with remaining high-priority coal problems. The amendments also extended the coal reclamation fee through 2021, which OSM estimates is long enough to complete the current level of remaining high-priority reclamation work.
Priorities are given to sites involving protection of public health, safety, property and restoration of adjacent degraded land and water resources. State governments establish their priority sites consistent with the law and implementing regulations and policies.
Despite enormous progress, many hazards addressed by the AML program still exist. There are nearly 5,200 coal-related abandoned mine sites that have yet to be fully reclaimed, amounting to an estimated $3.0 billion worth of health and safety problems and more than $2.0 billion of general welfare, environmental and non-coal problems.
Under the SMCRA AML program, enormous progress has been made in addressing the 200 year legacy of hazards and environmental degradation from past coal mining. The program has reclaimed almost 240,000 acres of hazardous high-priority coal-related problems. Safety and environmental hazards have been eliminated on almost 315,000 acres containing coal or non-coal problems. Since 1977, OSM has provided $4.06 billion in grants to its partners in 24 States and three Indian Tribes to clean up dangerous abandoned mine sites. Since 1999, OSM has funded 161 Watershed Cooperative Agreements with local non-profit watershed organizations totaling $14.1 million. This funding has been leveraged with other resources by these organizations to undertake projects valued at over $45 million. Almost 8,000 emergencies have also been addressed.
Lead Agency: U.S Forest Service
The Monday Creek Watershed is located in the Appalachian coal belt in southeast Ohio. In 1990, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rated it an unrecoverable stream: large portions of Monday Creek and its tributaries were dead due to acid mine drainage from a century of coal mining. In 1994, local residents formed the Monday Creek Restoration Project (MCRP) group, which sought to restore the 27 miles of mainstem Monday Creek. While initially concerned with correcting flooding issues, the group focus has since expanded–it now coordinates the efforts of more than 20 partners, including grassroots organizations, universities, state offices, EPA, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Office of Surface Mining, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Forest Service, which manages the 38 percent of the watershed that is federally owned. The MCRP also performs vital water quality monitoring throughout the 116-square mile watershed. This collaboration has been critical as each partner provides unique technical expertise and resources. At last report, partners had invested approximately $5 million toward creek cleanup, and the Forest Service has invested a similar amount, generally on projects in the Monday Creek tributaries. Since reclamation work began, community pride in the project has grown. Residents have been involved in activities such as conducting stream sampling, trash cleanups, and the painting of murals depicting coal mining and restoration work. The hard work of all partners has begun to pay off – EPA reversed the creek’s unrecoverable rating in 2004, the creek’s water quality has improved substantially, and people are using the area for recreation. With additional cleanup, the stream could someday be used as a warm water fishery to support recreational fishing.
Last Updated: August 2013