Pennsylvania

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DEP eyes new land for abandoned mine cleanup

A pile of waste coal sits abandoned in Fredericktown. Photo: Reid Frazier

A pile of waste coal sits abandoned in Fredericktown. Photo: Reid Frazier

Environmental officials in Pennsylvania have long focused on cleaning up the most hazardous old mines, but they plan to start addressing other abandoned mining sites that pose fewer public health dangers.

Patrick McDonnell, secretary of the state Department of Environmental Protection, announced Tuesday that his agency is developing a program aimed at converting these spaces into recreation areas.

“Traditionally the moneys we’ve had available for mining have been focused on dangerous highwalls, major stream impacts, things like that,” he said.

This program will target other sites with the potential for public use. An abandoned mine could become a green space or land designated for all-terrain vehicles.

“It’s a different way of looking at our abandoned mine land problem in the state,” McDonnell said.

He spoke about the new program in Pittsburgh at a conference geared toward developers and community officials interested in redeveloping old industrial sites called brownfields.

He said the mine initiative is modeled after another new state program, “Brownfields to Playfields,” which aims to turn those sites into recreational areas.

Plans for the mine program are in their infancy, according to the DEP. The agency still needs to identify funding streams and has not yet sought any sites to develop.

The initiative is in addition to other abandoned mine cleanup efforts, including a program launched last year that leverages federal money to convert 14 sites into spaces for community use and economic development.

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