House Democrats introduce bill targeting ‘zombie mines’

By Hannah Northey | 04/12/2024 06:27 AM EDT

Groups welcomes legislation to toughen bonding and cleanup requirements.

Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.).

Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.) introduced two bills Thursday on coal mine reclamation. J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Democrats on Thursday floated a pair of bills aimed at preventing cash-strapped coal companies from declaring bankruptcy and leaving behind polluting mines that can threaten public health and the environment.

Reps. Matt Cartwright of Pennsylvania and Debbie Dingell of Michigan introduced the “Coal Cleanup Taxpayer Protection Act” to close what they say are loopholes in the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (SMCRA) that allow mining companies to sidestep the full cost of cleanup after making money off of mining a site.

Cartwright, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, said too many coal companies have filed for bankruptcy and broken their promise to remediate mines, leaving American taxpayers on the hook.


As it stands, miners must provide bonds under SMCRA to cover the cost of cleanup and reclamation as part of the permitting process. If a mine operator fails to restore a mine to usable land, the bond is forfeited.