Abandoned mine program should be continued

Although the state has a couple of years to address the issue, an abandoned mine program faces its potential end when the current funding stream expires. The program’s objective is to eliminate public hazards.

The Abandoned Mine Land program provides the funds to the North Dakota Public Service Commission via a federal tax on coal. The reason for concern is that the tax’s authorization is set to expire in 2021.

This year, officials will dedicate about $1.6 million to stabilize collapsing underground coal mines in the central and western parts of the state. The state received $2.8 million total.

While the price tag isn’t particularly imposing, budget realities at all levels mean renewal of the funding source is not certain. Now, identifying alternate funding for the program could be a reasonable discussion.

However, discontinuing the program’s efforts should not be an option. This is important work and barring any credible assertions that it is no longer needed – and careful review of any such assertions – preserving the program should be a priority.

State officials and our delegation to Washington will hopefully see the wisdom in continuing this program and work with federal authorities to ensure that it does continue.