Benefits From Reclaiming Degraded, Abandoned Lands
Wednesday, September 28, 2022
A new report from the National Wildlife Federation found reclaiming degraded land could bring hundreds of millions of dollars to the U.S. economy, create thousands of jobs and fight climate change.
Pennsylvania has a third of the nation's abandoned mine acreage, along with old oil-and-gas wells, brownfields and Superfund sites.
Annie Regan, senior program manager for PennFuture, said funds from the bipartisan infrastructure law will help address the reclamation issues left by Pennsylvania's industrial history.
"More than $349 million has been allocated to Pennsylvania in 2022 for legacy pollution cleanup," Regan reported. "That includes capping orphan and oil and gas wells and reclaiming abandoned mine lands. "
According to the report, every dollar invested in land restoration could return up to $30 in improved food production, water quality, and carbon sequestration.
Regan pointed out the Reimagine Appalachia Coalition, PennFuture, and the National Wildlife Federation are working together on addressing abandoned mines and other land restoration across the Keystone State. She added environmentalists and laborers see it as a long-term employment opportunity.
"The goal is to find a common ground of where we find solutions based on federal dollars," Regan explained. "We can clean up our degraded lands by reclaiming abandoned mine lands and plugging orphaned wells, and in the process, make sure they're good paying union jobs. "
More than four million sites across the U.S. await remediation, according to the National Wildlife Federation.
Jessica Arriens, program manager for climate energy policy at the Federation and the report's co-author, said cleaning up these sites should benefit communities which need it most.
"The burden of degraded lands really falls heavily on frontline and rural communities," Arriens stressed. "That makes it even more important that we really think thoughtfully about engaging those communities in the implementation of degraded lands reclamation and making sure they have a say in how those dollars are spent."
The report also calls on Congress to increase annual funding nationwide for Superfund site cleanup, emergency response and removal, and brownfield redevelopment.
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