House Democrat floats bill to curb coal mine pollution

By Hannah Northey | 04/19/2024 06:41 AM EDT

The Obama-era stream protection rule inspired the legislation.

Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.).

Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) introduced legislation Thursday to increase scrutiny of coal mines. Francis Chung/POLITICO

Virginia Democratic Rep. Don Beyer unveiled legislation Thursday that would impose strict deadlines for cleaning up surface coal mines that can leach toxic water containing heavy metals into streams, rivers and drinking water sources.

Beyer’s bill, the “Stream Protection and Vegetation Restoration Act,” would amend the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977, or SMCRA, to increase monitoring of ground and surface waters surrounding coal mine operations.

The bill also lays out a process to ensure mine operators don’t idle mines to avoid cleanup or sidestep restoration after mining is complete.


Currently, SMCRA requires mine operators to have a plan for reclamation in place when mining but doesn’t set specific time limits, nor does it clarify how long a company can idle an operation.