PODCAST: Making Abandoned Mines Usable Again

What do you do with an abandoned coal mine? How can you make it into something that stimulates a local economy, like a park or a farm, instead of literally just an empty hole in the ground?

Mine reclamation may be the answer. And there’s a $1 billion bill in Congress right now that could kick-start a wave of reclamation across the economically devastated towns in Appalachia and elsewhere that have been hit hard by plummeting coal prices.

But there’s a catch: can the bill make it through the House and the Senate with only days left to go before the end of this lame-duck session of Congress?

Bloomberg BNA mining reporter Stephen Lee has been reporting on the twists and turns of the so-called RECLAIM Act on Capitol Hill. He says lobbyists peg its chances at about 20 percent. On the one hand, it’s backed by both the Democratic (for now) White House and a powerful Republican in the House. On the other hand, it doesn’t sound like both chambers of Congress are on the same page about why this bill is needed.

On the latest episode of our biweekly podcast, Parts Per Billion, Stephen talks about just that: why Appalachian residents believe $1 billion for mine reclamation is not only necessary, it may not even be enough. Stephen went out to Southern West Virginia and visited some of the mine sites that might be reclaimed if the bill passes.

Read more of Stephen’s reporting on the RECLAIM Act and other mining issues at BNA.com. You can also read more of our reporting on many other environmental topics at our blog and in our publication Daily Environment Report. If you liked what you heard in the podcast, sign up for a free trial.

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