Navajo Nation, New Mexico to receive funding for abandoned coal mine cleanup

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — The Navajo Nation and New Mexico are eligible for federal funds this year to clean up land and water damaged by abandoned coal mines.

The U.S. Department of the Interior announced this week that nearly $725 million is available to 22 states and the tribe as part of the $1.2 trillion infrastructure package that was approved by Congress and President Joe Biden last year.

The infrastructure law allocates a total of $11.3 billion over 15 years to address pollution caused by past coal mining.

Reclamation projects provide job opportunities and eliminate environmental hazards to communities, the department stated in its Feb. 7 news release.

The funding issued to the states and the tribe is based on the number of tons of coal historically produced in each state or on tribal lands before the federal law that regulates the environmental effects of coal mining was enacted in August 1977.

The Navajo Nation is eligible for $1.66 million while New Mexico is eligible for $2.42 million in fiscal year 2022.

Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement spokesman Francis Piccoli explained on Feb. 9 that funding will be used to address activities associated with coal mining, such as physical hazards and water restoration projects.

The Interior Department will release guidance in the near future for states and the tribe to apply for funding, a process they must complete annually.

"The Biden-Harris administration is committed to helping working families, often in rural and tribal communities, who face hazardous pollution, toxic water levels and land subsidence both during mining and long after coal companies have moved on," Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in the release. "The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law's historic investments will help revitalize these local economies and support reclamation jobs that help put people to work in their communities, all while addressing environmental impacts from these legacy developments."

Last week, the department announced that more than $1 billion from the bipartisan infrastructure package is available to plug orphaned oil and gas wells across the country.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at

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