News | November 9, 2021

Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal Will Clean Up Legacy Pollution, Protect Public Health

Investments to reclaim abandoned mine lands and plug orphan wells will protect communities, advance environmental justice

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal passed by Congress on November 5, 2021, makes historic investments to plug orphan wells and reclaim abandoned mine lands, which will help communities eliminate dangerous environmental conditions and pollution caused by past coal mining and legacy energy development.

“The Interior Department is committed to helping working families, often in rural and Tribal communities, who face hazardous pollution, toxic water levels, and land subsidence both during mining and long after coal companies have moved on,” said Secretary Deb Haaland. “The Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal’s historic investments will help revitalize these local economies and support reclamation jobs, all while addressing environmental impacts from these legacy developments.”

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal includes a $16B investment in legacy pollution clean-up, including:

  • $11.3B for abandoned mine land and water reclamation projects. These funds support vitally needed jobs for coal communities by funding projects that close dangerous mine shafts, reclaim unstable slopes, improve water quality by treating acid mine drainage, and restore water supplies damaged by mining.
  • $4.7B for orphaned well site plugging, remediation, and restoration activities. Orphaned oil and gas wells jeopardize public health and safety by contaminating groundwater, seeping toxic chemicals, emitting noxious gases, and harming wildlife. These funds will invest in an Energy Community Revitalization program to help plug and restore these abandoned sites.

Millions of Americans live within a mile of the tens of thousands of abandoned mines and oil and gas wells – a large, continuing course of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that is a major cause of climate change. In addition to addressing this legacy pollution, these investments build the foundation for additional jobs in the future once sites are cleaned up and can support new economic development opportunities.

These investments are part of the Administration’s all-of-government approach to support communities as they transition to a clean energy future. In 2021, the Interior Department invested over $260M for state and Tribal reclamation efforts through the Abandoned Mine Land (AML) and Abandoned Mine Land Economic Revitalization (AMLER) grant programs. Secretary Haaland highlighted these investments during a trip to Pennsylvania and in a West Virginia Charleston Gazette-Mail op-ed.

About The U.S. Department of the Interior
The Department of the Interior (DOI) conserves and manages the Nation’s natural resources and cultural heritage for the benefit and enjoyment of the American people, provides scientific and other information about natural resources and natural hazards to address societal challenges and create opportunities for the American people, and honors the Nation’s trust responsibilities or special commitments to American Indians, Alaska Natives, and affiliated island communities to help them prosper.

Source: The U.S. Department of the Interior