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Biden administration moves to protect Alaska wilderness; opening statements and first witness in NY trial; SCOTUS hears Starbucks case, with implications for unions on the line; rural North Carolina town gets pathway to home ownership.

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The Supreme Court weighs cities ability to manage a growing homelessness crisis, anti-Israeli protests spread to college campuses nationwide, and more states consider legislation to ban firearms at voting sites and ballot drop boxes.

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Wyoming needs more educators who can teach kids trade skills, a proposal to open 40-thousand acres of an Ohio forest to fracking has environmental advocates alarmed and rural communities lure bicyclists with state-of-the-art bike trail systems.

Advocates propose solutions to stop zombie mines in Ohio, other states

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Friday, February 16, 2024   

Advocates from coal-mining communities are proposing a roadmap to help address and prevent so-called "zombie mines," - abandoned mine lands on hold indefinitely.

According to the Center for Public Integrity, Ohio and other Appalachian states are littered with hundreds of zombie mines, allowing companies to avoid paying for environmental cleanup.

Erin Savage, senior program manager for Appalachian Voices, explained permit transfers allow companies to shed their responsibilities and the region has seen many go bankrupt in the last decade. Savage said advocates want federal rules limiting the amount of time mine permits can remain in "idle" status.

"This could provide an opportunity to make sure that these other coal companies taking on permits out of bankruptcy are actually capable of doing the reclamation before that transfer is approved," Savage noted.

That's one recommendation in a new platform supported by 52 organizations that would tackle the "zombie" mine crisis, which is currently being investigated by the Government Accountability Office.

According to a report from the Appalachian Citizens Law Center, pollution and debris from inactive mines can seep into drinking water supplies and harm wildlife, as well as putting communities at increased risk for landslides.

Savage added the problem is expected to grow as dependence on coal declines. And she argued stricter policies are needed to hold mining companies accountable for proper reclamation methods called for under federal water protection legislation.

"Ensuring compliance with the Clean Water Act through reclamation; require disturbed areas to be planted with noninvasive species," Savage outlined. "We see a big invasive species problem, both in the east and the west."

Research shows reclaiming zombie mines could also bring economic opportunities to a region plagued by unemployment. A 2021 analysis by Appalachian Voices found reclamation of modern mines in Ohio and six other eastern states could create between 23,000 and 45,000 jobs.

Disclosure: Appalachian Voices contributes to our fund for reporting on Energy Policy, Environment, and Environmental Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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