House backs James’ bill to aid remediation of toxic waste areas

From staff reports

The state House unanimously approved legislation drafted by Rep. Lee James that would add a member of the coal refuse energy and reclamation industry to the Mining Reclamation and Advisory Board to encourage clean-up of toxic waste areas that pollute local waterways.

The MRAB assists the secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection in disbursing funds and advising the secretary on surface coal mining and reclamation issues.

Currently, the board is composed of three coal operators, a professional engineer, a member from the county conservation districts, four public members from the Citizens Advisory Council and four members of the General Assembly.

“To be more mindful of how we handle toxic waste areas for everyone’s protection, DEP needs the industry’s help in evaluating methods and practices related to mine land reclamation, as well as in determining how best to allocate state abandoned mine land funding,” James said in a news release.

The state has 11 coal refuse energy and reclamation facilities that are environmentally remediating polluting coal refuse piles and providing alternative energy in the anthracite and bituminous coal regions, the release said. One of those facilities is the Scrubgrass Generating Plant in Venango County.

According to the release, the industry can remove more than 10 million tons of coal refuse from the environment and reclaim about 200 acres of mining-affected land in Pennsylvania each year.

To date, the industry has removed more than 225 million tons of coal refuse, restored more than 1,200 miles of impaired streams and reclaimed more than 7,200 acres of polluted mining affected land across the state, the release said.

House Bill 2219 now moves to the Senate for consideration.