Hearing held on anthracite industry’s environmental/economic impacts on NEPA

Sept. 28—HAZLETON—State Sen. John Yudichak on Tuesday said the work done by private coal refuse companies and nonprofit environmental organizations, like the Earth Conservancy, have given new life to the economy of Northeastern Pennsylvania.

The Senate Community, Economic & Recreational Development Committee, Chaired by Yudichak, I-Swoyersville, held a hearing Tuesday at Hazleton City Hall on the environmental and economic impacts of the anthracite industry in Northeastern Pennsylvania and Pennsylvania’s Coal Refuse Energy and Reclamation Tax Credit.

Committee members and panelists discussed how current mine reclamation efforts and more environmentally sensitive coal production is helping build on Northeastern Pennsylvania’s economic success story and how it may contribute to a stronger Pennsylvania economy.

“In Northeastern Pennsylvania, much of the commercial and industrial success you see in the I-81 corridor where nearly 25,000 jobs have been created in the last decade has occurred because thousands of acres of abandon mine land, that had littered the landscapes of cities from Hazleton to Nanticoke and Wilkes-Barre to Pittston have been reclaimed by the coal refuse industry,” Yudichak said.

In 2019, Yudichak partnered with Sen. David Argall, R-Schuylkill/Berks, to advance a major expansion of the $20 million PA Coal Refuse Energy and Reclamation Tax Credit that protected more than 3,000 energy jobs and continued the environmentally beneficial work of the coal refuse industry to reclaim over 7,000 acres of abandoned mine land and restore more than 1,200 miles of polluted streams.

Argall thanked Yudichak for hosting the hearing regarding the growing economic impact of anthracite and for his work in saving the coal refuse industry.

“These plants have reclaimed over 7,000 acres of abandoned mine land and have cleaned more than 1,200 miles of polluted streams,” Argall said. “Today, people can find fish in local streams, which ran orange and black just a few decades ago.”

Testifiers at the hearing included experts from the mining, reclamation, power producing and economic development industries.

“Reclamation is so much more than just aesthetics,” said Jason Kelso, General Counsel, Reading Anthracite. “Our reclamation projects provide ongoing economic growth through tourism, future alternative energy projects, commercial development and agriculture.”

Jaret Gibbons, executive director, Appalachian Region Independent Power Producers, said the coal refuse reclamation energy industry is proud to partner with the state and federal government and local environmental groups to clean up abandoned mind land sites that pollute the air and waterways throughout the Commonwealth.

“This industry produces economic and environmental benefits that extend from rural Pennsylvania throughout the Commonwealth,” Gibbons said. “The industry provides more than $600 million in economic impact largely in distressed rural communities throughout the northeast anthracite and western bituminous coal regions of the state.”

Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.

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