An event today highlighted the opportunities to clean up the scars left by coal mining, put laid-off miners back to work and boost local economic development – if PA Congressmen seize the opportunity. The event, attended by U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Acting DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell, marked the beginning of work to restore a 62-acre abandoned mine site in the community of Ehrenfeld in Cambria County. The $26 million project will remove more than three million tons of coal refuse, extinguish a five-acre fire and stop acid mine pollution from running into a tributary of the Little Conemaugh River.
Part of the restored land will be developed into a park that incorporates the Path of the Flood Trail which tells the story of the Johnstown Flood. The rest will be readied for future residential, commercial or industrial development. The work will be done by the Rosebud Mining company which will call back 40 laid-off miners and put heavy equipment to work that would otherwise sit unused. The project will last for three years.
This project is one of 14 in Pennsylvania that received a grant from the 2016 Abandoned Mine Lands Economic Revitalization Pilot Program Grant, and it’s the first to get underway. Pennsylvania received a total of $30 million. This program provides funding for abandoned mine reclamation projects that create jobs for out-of-work coal industry workers and promote economic development. A bill, the RECLAIM act, has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Kentucky Congressman Hal Rogers would super-charge the program by providing Pennsylvania with $60 million a year for five years for similar projects.
Pennsylvania has more unreclaimed abandoned mine land in the country with Congressman Thompson’s district having the unfortunate distinction of the most in any Congressional district in the country. But he is currently not a sponsor of the bill. Out of 10 PA Congressmen who have abandoned mine lands that need to be reclaimed, as well as laid-off coal industry workers, only Doyle, Cartwright and Dent are co-sponsors.
Why wouldn’t the rest of the delegation Congressmen Thompson, Shuster, Kelly, Marino, Barletta, Rothus and Murphy, jump on this golden opportunity to bring some bacon home and feed some hungry and eager-to-work coal workers?