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House OKs Tobash Bill to Boost Jobs, Reclamation in PA Anthracite Industry
12/20/2011
HARRISBURG – Recognizing the economic and environmental protection potential for the Commonwealth, the state House has approved legislation authored by Rep. Mike Tobash (R-Schuylkill/Berks) to open the door to expanding the state’s anthracite mining industry.

“This bill is a win-win, not only for the five-county anthracite region but for the state as a whole,” Tobash said. “The best way to create job opportunities for our citizens is to make it easier for private industry to invest in and grow their operations. And the most affordable way to reclaim abandoned mine lands is to allow mine operators to re-mine these sites instead of having taxpayers foot the bill. Both of these goals will be achieved under my legislation.”



Bernie Kuperavage, owner of KK Coal LLC, agreed. “In these tough times, credit is tight, and if we can find another way to get credit it will really help mining operations like mine secure current jobs and open new opportunities. I commend Representative Tobash for finding an alternative that will help small business in our area, and for recognizing that the best, most cost-effective way to clean up abandoned mine sites is through re-mining.”

State law requires mine operators to obtain bonding to ensure sufficient funds are available to reclaim a mining site in the event the operator defaults. House Bill 1813 makes the bonding more readily available so operators can reinvest their own capital into growing their business and re-mine additional abandoned sites. Once the sites are re-mined, they are also reclaimed.

“It’s ironic that the bonding requirement is designed to help ensure reclamation but is instead holding it back and driving up the cost,” Tobash said. “It can cost taxpayers as much as $10,000 per acre to reclaim a mine site. However, when a site is reclaimed by the industry as part of a re-mining process, it costs taxpayers nothing.”

Just as important as the environmental protection benefit is the potential for job creation and economic growth.

“Our region, the state and the entire country are looking for opportunities to grow jobs,” Tobash said. “We have a golden opportunity right here in our own back yard because the worldwide demand for anthracite coal is at its highest level in years. We need to take advantage of this opportunity.”

Tobash said he is pleased that his bill has the support of the industry, including the Pennsylvania Anthracite Council and the Pennsylvania Coal Association, as well as environmental advocacy groups such as the Schuylkill Conservation District and the Eastern Pennsylvania Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation.

“This is the most significant piece of legislation to come out of Harrisburg for the anthracite coal mining industry in the last 25 years. Passage of this bill will create new jobs and environmental reclamation in the anthracite region,” said Duane Feagley, executive director of the Pennsylvania Anthracite Council. “Representative Tobash has shown himself to be a real leader and an excellent communicator for his district. His ability to secure strong bi-partisan support was a key point in passage of the bill.”

In a letter of support, Schuylkill Conservation District Chairman Paul Lohin stated, “If this legislation is passed, it will allow coal mine operators to continue to reclaim expired mining sites in a manner that is more economically feasible than the current conventional bonding system.”

Current estimates show there is still 4 billion to 6 billion tons of reserve in the state’s five-county anthracite region. The industry in Pennsylvania once employed 177,000 people and helped to fuel the Industrial Revolution and support the nation through two world wars. Today, the industry employs about 1,000 people but still contributes more than $200 million to the regional and state economies.

House Bill 1813 passed by a vote of 193-1. The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.

State Representative Mike Tobash
125th District, Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Contact: Patricia Hippler
phippler@pahousegop.com
717.772.9846
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