Politics makes strange bedfellows. In policy circles, a lawmaker who opposes you on one issue may become your ally on the next. Usually though, this does not happen on the same issue. The issue here is who should pay to clean up toxic pollution from mines. On the one hand, we could have taxpayers pick up the tab. Or we could make polluters pay. I prefer the latter. And for the most part, I’d tend to think that members of Congress concerned about government spending, deficits, and American’s tax burden would too. Currently, there is no independent funding stream dedicated strictly to clean up of abandoned hardrock mine lands (AML). Instead, we have the coal-mining industry subsidizing the hardrock mining industry. The Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (SMCRA) imposes a per ton fee on coal mining divided among the states for AML clean up. Clearly not the ideal solution, but it’s better than nothing.
Earthworks reluctantly endorses using funds generated by the coal mine reclamation fee to clean up abandoned hardrock mines — only because there is no similar dedicated fund for abandoned hardrock mine reclamation.
Yesterday, the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources conducted a hearing concerning H.R. 4817. The bill would amend the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) of 1977 and give uncertified States and Indian tribes authority to use payments to take care of certain noncoal (i.e. uranium) reclamation projects.