CONGRESSWOMAN ELISE STEFANIK
On Tuesday, July 5, 2016, the House will consider H.R. 3844, the Energy and Minerals Reclamation Foundation Establishment Act, as amended, under suspension of the rules. H.R. 3844 was introduced on October 28, 2015 by Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA) and was referred to the Committee on Natural Resources, which ordered the measure reported, as amended, on June 15, 2016 by unanimous consent.
H.R. 3844 establishes a new Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Foundation to facilitate cleanup of abandoned mine lands (AML), orphaned oil and gas sites, and other select mission areas of the BLM. Specifically, the legislation establishes a Foundation to assist the Bureau of Land Management, other federal land management agencies, state agencies, and non-profit organizations to raise funds for the purpose of AML and orphaned oil and gas site cleanup on federal lands, lands that were federally-managed during extraction activity, or sites that could adversely impact other federal lands. The Foundation is governed by a Board of Directors, comprised of 9 individuals representing diverse areas of expertise relating to mining, mine reclamation, development and reclamation of oil and gas fields, and natural or cultural conservation. The Foundation is considered a corporation and has specific corporate powers and obligations, cannot use funds to purchase property, and must report to Congress annually on its activities. Finally, H.R. 3844 allows the Foundation to accept Federal funds from a Federal agency under any other Federal law for purposes of establishing an office and meeting initial administrative, project, and other expenses.
On August 5, 2015, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) personnel and contractors caused the release of approximately 3 million gallons of toxic mine wastewater from Gold King Mine into the Animus River in Colorado. The EPA estimated cleanup costs at approximately $3 million. In October 2015, EPA personnel triggered a 2,000 gallon wastewater spill at Standard Mine in Colorado, a small-scale repeat of the Gold King mine disaster.
H.R. 3844 is part of a response to these spills. By establishing a Foundation to facilitate the cleanup of abandoned mine lands and orphaned oil and gas well sites, contributions from the general public can be solicited for actions that will enhance and improve the quality of the environment.
For AML sites and orphaned oil and gas well sites, there is generally no responsible party to remediate the mine site or address downstream water quality issues. In addition, current laws and policies impede voluntary and privately funded cleanup efforts. The Obama Administration has previously proposed imposing fee and tax increases on the mining industry to addressing AML. However, critics point out that these proposals would fail to address the issue in a timely manner. Recently, the Committee received testimony that estimated EPA’s cleanup costs for hard rock AML sites at $50 billion. At annual reclamation fees of $180 million a year, it would take 277 years to address hard rock AML issues. Additionally, it’s estimated there is at least $9 billion left in coal AML cleanup costs.
 See EPA: Treatment at Colorado mine spill site with cost $3 million, Denver Post. September 5, 2015.
 See Committee on Natural Resources memo, “Legislative Hearing on H.R. 3844….” November 4, 2015 at 2.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that implementing the legislation would cost $7 million over the 2017-2021 period, assuming appropriation of authorized amounts. According to CBO, enacting the bill would not affect direct spending or revenues; therefore, pay-as-you-go procedures do not apply. CBO estimates that enacting H.R. 3844 would not increase net direct spending or on-budget deficits in any of the four consecutive 10-year periods beginning in 2027.
For questions or further information please contact Jake Vreeburg with the House Republican Policy Committee by email or at 5-0190.