Putting the Dead to Rest: Why Legislation to Halt Zombie Mines Is Essential

On April 11, 2024, Pennsylvania Congressman, Matt Cartwright, introduced two bills in the U.S. House to assuage issues associated with “zombie mines,” coal mines that no longer produce coal, but haven’t been cleaned up by the operator. If passed, these bills could better deter mine operators from leaving legacy pollution in Pennsylvania’s precious waterways, which suffer from over 100 years of damages from mining activity.

Under the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act, operators must prove they have enough funding in a bond to remediate damage from their mine, such as treating polluted water. If an operator doesn’t meet reclamation obligations, the bond is used to pay for cleanup. But mine operators have found loopholes that often result in abandoned and “zombie” mines being left un-reclaimed. 

One of these bills, the Bond Improvement and Reclamation Assurance Act, would require operators to take into account additional long-term factors like inflation and anticipated market conditions when calculating bond amounts. 

The other, the Coal Cleanup Taxpayer Protection Act, would eliminate self-bonding. In the past, self-bonding has allowed mining companies to use bankruptcy to avoid paying for reclamation. This bill could help keep those companies accountable for payments. 

It’s essential that these bills pass – we cannot allow negligent mine operators to continue poisoning our waterways and our communities. 

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