Mr. HELLER of Nevada. Mr. Chairman, more hardrock mining occurs in my district than in any other State; therefore, the remediation of abandoned mine lands is very important to my constituents.
As many of us are aware, abandoned mine lands are the unfortunate legacy of the irresponsible mining practices of the past. Fortunately, mining operations today are held accountable for their practices. So with bad practices of the past ended, we have an opportunity to focus on cleaning up the abandoned mine lands. And the amendment I am offering will do just that.
My amendment will direct half of the revenues deposited in the hardrock reclamation fund to States for the purposes of abandoned mine land remediation, while preserving the Federal Government's ability to fund the national priorities in the bill. My amendment allows the Federal Government to distribute half of the funds as it sees fit. The other half of the funds would go proportionately to States where production is occurring to fund in-place, successful AML programs.
In multiple committee hearings, we heard that States currently do a great job of remediating abandoned mine land sites. They often are only limited by their available resources to conduct remediation projects. To give some of you perspective of how effective State programs are, Nevada has identified more than 20,000 AML sites in need of remediation and is still in the process, of course, of identifying more. The good news is that to date we have secured more than 9,000 of those sites.
Likewise, in Colorado it is estimated that there are about 23,000 abandoned mines. More than 6,000 have been made safe by the State Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety.
So in an effort to get money on the ground to remediate abandoned land mine sites quickly and efficiently, a portion of these funds needs to be dedicated to States where production is occurring. Given that many States have already prioritized their AML needs, we should get funding to them as directly as possible, as quickly as possible. This amendment will expedite the cleanup process that we all want.
My amendment bolsters the ability of States to continue their good work on the ground while providing a way to remediate historic hardrock sites in States where mineral production will not generate sufficient funds to deal with current abandoned mine land issues.
I would urge support of the Heller amendment.
Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. RAHALL. Mr. Chairman, during debate in committee over this legislation, the gentleman from Nevada conducted himself in a manner which I highly commend. He offered amendments that were aimed at addressing the concerns and interests of his State and his district. And, frankly, I recognize he has the most at stake here, representing Nevada, the largest gold-producing State in the Nation.
The gentleman offered two amendments. The one he is offering today was one of those amendments. In committee, I could not accept it because we had no discussions on it prior to its appearing as an amendment. But we did offer to continue to work with the gentleman from Nevada, as we have done.
And after having some time to consider the subject matter of his amendment, I am going to accept it, and I would urge my colleagues to do likewise.
This amendment would allocate 50 percent of the revenues received from the proposed new abandoned hardrock reclamation fund back to the States where those revenues were generated.
There is precedent for this arrangement in the Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund established for coal back in [Page: H12424]
1977 which so vitally affects my State. The other 50 percent of the revenues would be used by the Federal Government for national priorities.
So, in conclusion, I say to the gentleman from Nevada, you are looking out for your State. I appreciate that; I commend you for it. And I appreciate the manner in which you have approached this overall issue of mining law reform, and I accept your amendment.
Mr. Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time.