Pennsylvania Receives $28.6 Million to Revitalize Abandoned Mine Lands

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HARRISBURG, PA — The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has been granted a substantial $28.6 million in federal funds for the 2024 fiscal year, aimed at transforming abandoned mine lands into vibrant community assets. This funding is part of the larger Abandoned Mine Land Economic Revitalization (AMLER) Program, which targets the rehabilitation of these neglected sites for economic and community development projects across the Commonwealth.

Pennsylvania, bearing the unfortunate title of having the most abandoned coal mines in the nation, faces a daunting reclamation need estimated at $5 billion. These abandoned lands not only scar the landscape but have left more than 5,000 miles of streams poisoned by acid mine drainage. The recent announcement of federal funding represents a critical step forward in addressing these environmental damages and leveraging these sites for public benefit.

Projects under the AMLER program have historically ranged from the creation of public parks to the installation of waterlines ensuring access to clean water, as well as the development of recreational trails. With over 150,000 acres already rehabilitated with the help of both federal and state funds, Pennsylvania sets an example of how post-industrial landscapes can be repurposed for the community’s gain.

The infusion of $28.6 million is part of a broader initiative, announced earlier this year by Lieutenant Governor Austin Davis and U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, committing $244 million to Pennsylvania for mine land restoration. This funding, derived from the Infrastructure, Investment, and Jobs Act (IIJA), underscores a nationwide acknowledgment of the urgent need to address the legacy of abandoned mine lands.

Aside from the ecological restoration, the DEP is tackling the risk of mine subsidence, a concern for millions of Pennsylvania residents living atop old, undermined land. To mitigate this, the DEP provides affordable mine subsidence insurance, a necessity given that such damages are typically not covered by standard homeowners’ insurance policies. Since 1961, the insurance program has compensated homeowners with over $36 million in claims, safeguarding communities against the unpredictable collapses of abandoned underground mines.

The allocation of AMLER funds was facilitated through the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) and marks the ninth year Pennsylvania has benefited from this federal support since AMLER’s establishment in 2016. This program not only exemplifies a commitment to environmental stewardship but also opens doors to sustainable economic opportunities by converting liabilities into assets.

Eligible projects for the latest round of funding include outdoor recreation initiatives and industrial improvements, with interested applicants encouraged to apply through the DEP’s dedicated grant program page. This strategic investment promises not just to rehabilitate the environment but to invigorate communities, creating spaces where nature and society can thrive together. Through initiatives like AMLER, Pennsylvania demonstrates the potential for post-industrial landscapes to be reborn as hubs of recreation, conservation, and economic development.

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