CCJ Applauds Funding to Reclaim Abandoned Mine Lands and Close and Clean Up Orphaned Gas Wells and Sites


Contact: Lisa DePaoli, lisa@centerforcoalfieldjustice.org, 724-229-3550, ext. 5  

WASHINGTON, PA — In response to the Department of the Interior announcing almost $245 million for the state of Pennsylvania for reclaiming abandoned mine lands (AML), along with a potential for $330 million for the proper closure and cleanup of orphaned gas wells and well sites—key parts of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law—the Center for Coalfield Justice released the following statement:

This historic funding allocation to reclaim abandoned mine lands and clean up abandoned oil and gas wells will help make our communities safer and create thousands of good-paying jobs. The funds from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) will increase AML funds nearly fivefold in the next year and allocate a total of $4.7 billion to create a new federal program to address orphaned wells, dramatically improving economic opportunities and eliminating dangerous environmental conditions and pollution caused by past coal mining and oil and gas drilling.

Pennsylvania received the most money for AML reclamation – about a third of the total funds distributed across 22 states and the Navajo Nation – because our state has the greatest AML needs. Like many communities in Appalachia, this region was hit hard by the downturn of coal industry jobs. As required by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the funding will prioritize projects that employ dislocated coal industry workers and invest in projects that close dangerous mine shafts, reclaim unstable slopes, improve water quality by treating acid mine drainage, and restore water supplies damaged by mining. AML reclamation projects also enable economic revitalization by reclaiming hazardous land for recreational facilities and other economic redevelopment uses like advanced manufacturing and renewable energy projects.

In addition, Pennsylvania is eligible to apply for the second-highest amount of funding, next to Texas, for the proper closure and cleanup of orphaned wells and well sites, which leak methane and are polluting backyards, recreation areas, and public spaces across the commonwealth.

Said Veronica Coptis, Executive Director of the Center for Coalfield Justice,

CCJ is invested in making sure these federal funds stay in our local communities and that they help to build shared prosperity. Strong community and labor standards will be required in order to prioritize locally owned contracts as well as local workers, and to ensure good pay and working conditions. We will work to assure that local voices are heard and represented as plans are made for a just economic transition: In our region, there is a dire need for diverse economic opportunities that provide living wages to support our families, and those jobs should in turn support public and environmental health.


Justice for Coalfield Communities


  • Lisa (Coffield) DePaoli joined the CCJ staff as Outreach Coordinator in December 2018 and moved into the role of Communications Manager in 2020. She grew up in rural Washington County, has family in both Washington and Greene Counties, and has always loved animals and spending time outdoors. A first-generation and nontraditional college student, her deep interest in human beings and ecology led her to earn a Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Pittsburgh in 2012. She has worked on research projects and taught at the university level in the U.S. and in field schools in Latin America. The knowledge and experience she gained increased her concern for environmental and social justice issues, which she believes are best addressed at the local level, or from the "bottom up." Lisa works to understand issues from the local to the global, seeks to make a positive difference, and loves to talk to people about what interests or concerns them. In her free time, she enjoys reading, spending time with her family, furkids, and friends, and walking in the woods with her dogs.

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