Iowa will apply for up to $6 million of new federal funding to stem the pollution and other safety hazards posed by leftover coal mines in the southeastern part of the state, according to the state Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship.
The Interior Department invited states this week to apply for a portion of the $725 million set aside this year for abandoned mine cleanup from the 2021 infrastructure bill. States with more-substantial past mining are eligible for more than $100 million. Iowa’s eligibility was capped by the department at $6 million.
The funding would benefit Iowa’s Abandoned Mined Land Reclamation program, which began in 1983. It has mitigated about a third of the state’s roughly 300 sites so far, according to IDALS. The program is primarily funded through federal taxes on current coal mining, and the state gets about $2.9 million each year.
Iowa was a significant coal producer in the early 1900s. The material was most often mined by excavating wide surfaces. The remnants of that work are rugged landscapes that are prone to erosion and leech contaminated water into streams. High banks and ponds of dirty water also pose safety risks to those who might attempt to traverse the areas.
The infrastructure law gave the Interior Department $11.3 billion for mine cleanup grants to be distributed over 15 years.
The extra funding represents a huge boost for abandoned mine cleanup efforts by the Interior Department’s Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement.
In fiscal 2022, OSMRE sent a total of $243.1 million to all states and tribes in the program, with $153.1 million funded mostly with fees paid by active coal miners and $90 million in additional federal grants. Pennsylvania had the highest allocation with $38.1 million.
The extra funding in the infrastructure law was meant to both eliminate pollution from mining sites and to provide job opportunities in communities that have historically relied on coal mining.
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