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Job Not Finished, Pennsylvania AML Campaign Warns; U.S. House of Representatives' Addition of AML Clean-up Bill to Controversial Legislation Mixed Blessing, at Best.

ALEXANDRIA, Pa. -- In the wake of the U.S. House of Representatives' passage of HR 5970, incorporating legislation guaranteeing money to clean up hazardous and unsightly abandoned mine land (AML), Pennsylvania AML Campaign Chair R. John Dawes warned that the job is not done and citizen lobbying across the state must continue. The action late Friday by the House of Representatives, just before the members left for their August recess, sent the massive bill to the Senate on a take-it-or-leave-it basis, so any changes to the legislation by the U.S. Senate would delay or perhaps stop the vital clean up money to the states. The bill contains cuts in the estate tax, a raise in the minimum wage and other issues as well as the AML cleanup provisions.

"Citizens throughout the state - from County Commissioners to Conservation Districts to anglers and hunters to public health officials and environmental activists - have worked ceaselessly to get permanent clean up funding for our terrible legacy of damage from coal mining," said Dawes. "And we profoundly appreciate the exceptional leadership of Senator Santorum, supported by Senator Specter, in moving the issue this far.

"But the progress Senator Santorum made on our behalf is endangered because the House deliberately placed the AML legislation in a highly controversial bill, knowing that it may be rejected by the Senate," Dawes added.

"We urge the U.S. Senate to pass HR 5970 this week to help Pennsylvania and other states clean up abandoned mine land," continued Dawes. "Let's get the job done now."

HR 5970 contains provisions to increase the minimum wage, decrease the estate tax and grant other tax breaks to specific industries, in addition to permanent funding for AML clean up through an assessment on current mining operations, paying states their unpaid balances on the current funding and providing for retired miner health benefits. None of these provisions will become law unless the U.S. Senate passes HR 5970 with no changes.

Nearly 1.4 million Pennsylvanians live within a mile of an abandoned mine land site. At least 44 of the 67 counties in Pennsylvania are affected by abandoned coal mines, with 4,000 miles of biologically dead streams. As of March 2002, Pennsylvania had 5,172 documented abandoned mine sites - with more than 184,431 acres of abandoned mine lands. Pennsylvania's clean up costs are at least $1.5 billion, not accounting for inflation or new break outs.

The Pennsylvania AML Campaign is a coalition of more than 200 organizations across the Commonwealth dedicated to cleaning up the legacy of coal mining. In addition, more than 50 conservation districts and county governments have formally asked for federal action this session to permanently fund this vital clean up.
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Publication:Business Wire
Date:Aug 1, 2006
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