In an overwhelmingly bipartisan fashion, the Pennsylvania House passed HB 1813 by a vote of 193-1. This bill gives the coal industry the ability to more easily tap into an estimated 6 billion tons of anthracite coal. The legislation enables coal companies to use more of their own capital to meet bonding requirements for mining reclamation while re-opening abandoned mine sites.
Environmental organizations, such as the Eastern Pennsylvania Coalition for Abandoned Coal Mine Reclamation, support the legislation. The profit incentive from available coal in old mine sites will entice many companies to start operations in the five county region. As a prerequisite of operation, companies will be held responsible for restoring damaged ecosystems from past mining. Ultimately, this will take the $10,000 per acre reclamation bill burden off the taxpayer tab and accelerate the restoration process.
According to the GOP release, in the past, the coal industry was a major employer with more than 150,000 employees. Today, after decades of downsizing due to increased federal and state environmental regulations imposed on mining operations and power plants, the coal industry employs a mere 1,000 Pennsylvanians. This new legislation boasts tremendous potential for the creation of new jobs in the industry.
Along with increased jobs comes an increased supply of coal. According to economic theory, an increased supply on the power grid equates to lower energy prices for struggling consumers. Unleashing the potential of Pennsylvania’s natural resources will be an invaluable component to the country’s growing energy needs and goals of becoming more energy independent in the future.
Sponsor Representative Mike Tobash proclaims HB 1813 to be a true “win-win” situation. The legislation will save taxpayers money in mining reclamation costs, create hundreds- if not thousands- of jobs in Pennsylvania, deliver affordable energy to consumers, and promises to far exceed the current $200 million contribution mark to the Keystone economy. The legislature can unleash the potential of the state’s immense natural gas and coal reserves while maintaining the environment. HB 1813 is a dynamic example of aligning proper incentives for both ecological and economic development. Policymakers must allow the industries to flourish in order for Pennsylvania to become a national leader in energy production.