Putting Coal Miners Back to Work and Improving Communities

By: Patrick McDonnell, Acting Secretary of Environmental Protection

September 08, 2016

On August 4, 2016, I joined U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to celebrate a project in the Cambria County community of Ehrenfeld on a major project to eliminate a towering coal spoil pile that literally splits the town in two.

Thanks to a new program from the U.S. Department of Interior and the innovative thinking of Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s Bureau of Abandoned Mine Reclamation and Rosebud Mining, more than 40 miners will be put back to work removing the pile and changing the face of this Cambria County town.

DEP has wanted to move this project along for years—but the cost was too high. Rosebud Mining approached DEP with a proposal: the company could do the job for far less that other contractors by using its own miners and heavy equipment-thus saving millions of dollars. Combining these cost savings with DOI’s new Abandoned Mine Lands pilot program allowed the project to get off the ground.

Once the coal pile is removed the site will be transformed in to a recreational area that will complement the “Path of the Food Trail” that commemorates the 1889 Johnstown Flood. It will become a regional attraction.

Ehrenfeld is one of 14 projects funded through the AML pilot program. Click here for a full list of projects.

The pilot program is intended to demonstrate the benefits of the proposed federal RECLAIM Act. If passed, RECLAIM will direct approximately $67 million of federal AML funding per year to Pennsylvania over the next five years for reclamation projects that deliver local economic benefits similar to the projects included in the pilot.

These funds will help Pennsylvania accelerate efforts to clean up abandoned mine lands, while simultaneously supporting economic development in legacy coal regions that have been hard hit by recent declines in the coal industry. Governor Wolf has been vocal in support of the RECLAIM Act, and is urging the Pennsylvania Congressional delegation to support its passage.


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