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Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation Program extended through 2034

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Public Service Commissioner Randy Christmann

The U-S Interior Department has extended the Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation Program through the year 2034.

In North Dakota, the program is used to reclaim old underground coal mines. At times, sinkholes have developed because of those mines.

The Public Service Commission is responsible for abandoned mine reclamation. Commissioner Randy Christmann said the extension is good news. Christmann said North Dakota’s abandoned mine lands program has worked very well.

"We've actually gotten the very most dangerous things taken care of," Christmann said.

Christmann said some have told him if that’s the case, the state should end its AML program.

"The fact of the matter is, these things continue to pop-up," Christmann said. "They will for many decades."

Christmann said those old underground mines were not mapped, because that happened pre-regulation.

"So all of a sudden, you have a road cave in, and it turns out there's an old mine under there that no one ever mapped," Christmann said. "With this program, we're able to go out and fix those kinds of things."

Christmann said North Dakota has received about $2.7 million per year through the AML program. And he said there's additional money available in the federal infrastructure bill for AML programs. He said that is $11.3 billion. But he said there are a lot of unknowns about that pot of money.

"For instance, one of the things that's mentioned is that it's supposed to employ current and former coal industry workers," Christmann said. "That brings up a question mark for me. We bid these things out with private contractors. WE do not know who their employess are."

Christmann said there’s no guidance yet on how those funds can be accessed, and for what purposes.

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