Colorado Will Receive This Funding from the Infrastructure Law to Clean Up Hazardous Abandoned Mine Lands
Denver — Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet welcomed the Department of Interior’s (DOI) announcement that Colorado will receive nearly $10 million from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) in Fiscal Year 2022 funding to reclaim and clean up abandoned mine lands (AML). The BIL allocated $16 billion to address legacy pollution, including a total of $11.3 billion in AML funding over 15 years, which will help communities eliminate dangerous environmental conditions and pollution caused by past coal mining.
“Abandoned mines create unsafe conditions for surrounding communities but reclamation can provide opportunities for economic growth and revitalization,” said Bennet. “This investment will support our communities affected by mine closures by creating good-paying jobs, cleaning up dangerous environmental hazards and pollution, and reducing the risks posed by underground coal mine fires.
"These new funds from the Department of Interior through the Infrastructure Law will increase annual funding for 15 years from $3 million to $13 million for abandoned mine work in Colorado,” said Dan Gibbs, Executive Director, Colorado Department of Natural Resources. “We will use this first year's funding to mitigate and further control historic underground coal mines in the state. Going forward, we will continue to reduce the threats from the over 30 coal mine fires and other legacy abandoned coal mine issues which persist throughout Colorado. We appreciate the leadership of President Biden, U.S. Senators Bennet and Hickenlooper and the rest of the Colorado congressional delegation who all worked in collaboration to bring these needed funds to our state."
AML reclamation projects support much-needed jobs in coal communities by investing in projects that close dangerous mine shafts, reclaim unstable slopes, treat acid mine drainage to improve water quality, treat underground coal fires, and restore water supplies that mining has damaged. In some cases, these remediation activities can also reduce harmful leaking methane pollution – a key contributor to climate change. AML funds can also be used to fight underground abandoned coal mine fires that emit toxic fumes and can potentially cause ground collapse or wildfires. Colorado officials intend to use the majority of this funding to mitigate these types of underground coal mine fires, including in Moffat and Gunnison Counties.
AML reclamation projects also revitalize economies by reclaiming hazardous land for recreational facilities and other economic development uses like advanced manufacturing and renewable energy deployment. As directed by the BIL, this funding will prioritize projects that employ dislocated coal industry workers. Currently, Colorado receives around $3 million per year in AML funds, which the announced funding will supplement.Bennet continues to work in the Senate to clean up abandoned mines and support Colorado coal and mining communities. Last year, Bennet joined U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Jim Risch (R-Idaho) to introduce the bipartisan Good Samaritan Remediation of Abandoned Hardrock Mines Act. This legislation would make it easier for “Good Samaritans” such as state agencies, local governments, nonprofits, and other groups, to clean up and improve water quality in and around abandoned hardrock mines. In October 2021, Bennet introduced the American Energy Worker Opportunity Act to provide critical resources and training opportunities to assist and empower workers whose jobs are affected by the energy industry’s move toward cleaner sources. In May 2022, Bennet introduced the National Energy Community Transition Act to support economic development and diversification in communities across Colorado that have historically relied on fossil fuel-related power generation, production, or extraction and now face significant declines in tax revenue that sustain core public services, such as hospitals and schools.