Better Water Pennsylvania Coalition Launches

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Supports Waste Coal Tax Credit with Environmental Benefits

“This legislation supports the only industry that is making beneficial use of this waste coal, and in the process cleaning up the environment.

Elected officials, organized labor and businesses today launched a coalition to help supplement Pennsylvania’s efforts to clean up and reclaim abandoned mine damaged waterways and lands. The coalition, “Better Water Pennsylvania,” endorses and supports Senate Bill 1346 by PA State Senator Don White (R-Indiana), which would establish an energy and reclamation tax credit for the waste coal to alternative energy industry. To qualify for the credit, electric generators must use waste coal as a fuel source and use the ash to reclaim land from abandoned mines.

“Past mining practices have left waste coal from abandoned mines on land across the Commonwealth, leading to water, land and air pollution,” said Sen. White. “This legislation supports the only industry that is making beneficial use of this waste coal, and in the process cleaning up the environment.

“As a member of the PENNVEST Board of Directors, I’ve long focused on the need to clean up our waterways by ensuring public sewer services become available and affordable in our most rural communities. Eliminating the raw sewage discharge in streams just makes sense. And now by introducing SB 1346, I’m hoping to continue those efforts by further incentivizing the reuse of waste coal with the ultimate objective of cleaning up AMD discharges,. This is the only planet we have and we must make efforts to protect and improve it,” concluded Sen. White.

The proposed legislation will provide a number of benefits to the region, including:

  •     Supporting the waste coal to energy industry’s survival and growth with a fuel source credit of $3.50 per ton to supplement Pennsylvania’s cleanup efforts
  •     Removing waste coal from abandoned mines and reclaiming the land
  •     Cleaning waterways by removing the primary source of acid mine drainage
  •     Preserving thousands of local jobs in generation, transportation, mining, logistics, trucking and handling
  •     Contributing to electric reliability with an alternative energy source

According to data from Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), Pennsylvania has the nation’s highest number of abandoned mines with approximately 180,000 acres of cliffs and waste coal piles dating back to the 1700s. More than two billion tons of waste coal are in piles across the state resulting in acid mine drainage polluting and degrading no fewer than 5,500 miles of rivers and streams. Pennsylvania DEP also estimates that eliminating these abandoned mines would take nearly 500 years and $14.6 billion.

Waste coal is the byproduct of material that remains after a coal mining operation is closed. It is usually laced with rock and clay, which contains elements that can cause ground and surface water runoff to contain elevated levels of sulfur and iron. Waste coal generating plants not only remove this waste coal from the landscape, but also create an ash that can be beneficially reused by local mines to neutralize acid mine drainage into the ground and surface waters.

Since 1988, waste coal plants in Pennsylvania have removed more than two hundred million tons of waste coal, restoring 8,200 acres of land and hundreds of miles of streams at no cost to taxpayers. However, power plants that use this low-energy coal face monumental economic challenges due to a volatile and depressed energy market as well as high maintenance costs caused by the nature of the fuel they use. There are 15 waste coal plants operating in the State of Pennsylvania with nearly 700 employees that support thousands of additional jobs in mining, transportation, logistics, trucking and handling.

For more information on the proposed legislation see SB 1346. There is also a companion Pennsylvania House Bill, HB 2265.

About Better Water PA
Better Water PA is a coalition of Pennsylvania businesses, organized labor and bi-partisan local and state legislators supporting the environmental improvements from the waste coal to energy industry for the benefit of the entire community. The coalition website allows visitors to email their state senator and state representative in support of the legislation. Visit:

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David Gaier

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