U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman has announced that legislation he introduced to allow New Mexico to spend federal funds to cleanup abandoned uranium mines has been approved by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. That move clears the bill for full Senate consideration.
Under the existing Abandoned Mine Land (AML) program, the U.S. Department of Interior is authorized to collect revenue from coal companies for a fund that cleans up abandoned mines. Each state receives a share of the AML fund, but the Interior Department currently restricts the ability of states to use some of that funding to clean up non-coal mines. As a result, New Mexico has not been able to focus the funding on one of its priorities – to clean up uranium mines.
Bingaman’s legislation, which is co-sponsored by U.S. Senator Tom Udall, makes clear that those funds can be used for non-coal cleanup, paving the way for New Mexico to tap into its $21 million over the next few years to clean up abandoned uranium mines.
“This bill would make it possible for New Mexico to tap into federal funds to clean up abandoned uranium minds in our state. I’m glad this bill has cleared its first hurdle and is now ready for approval by the full Senate,” said Bingaman, who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and scheduled today’s vote.
“Many of these uranium mines were abandoned long ago but continue to have a big impact on the environmental health of our state and the physical health of its people. It is only right that New Mexico be able to use its share of funds from this program to address priority areas, and I am pleased to see this important bill gaining traction,” Udall said.
Also the Energy Committee approved legislation that Bingaman introduced that reauthorizes a program that allows federal land management agencies to sell surplus public lands and to reinvest those funds to purchase environmentally-sensitive lands.