Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead (R) says he is strongly opposed to legislation proposed in Congress that would shift money from a federal fund established to reclaim and clean up thousands of abandoned mines to jobs programs in coal-mining communities that have been hit hard as a result of the Obama administration’s energy policies and restrictions on coal mining.
The push in favor of the legislation is being led by U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY).
House Appropriations Chair Rogers introduced the Revitalizing the Economy of Coal Communities by Leveraging Local Activities and Investing More Act, or RECLAIM Act, on February 3, 2016. Rogers’ bill largely mirrors a budget request the Obama administration made in 2015, shifting $1 billion in currently unused funds from the Abandoned Mine Lands (AML) program to provide economic redevelopment aid to coal communities now facing hard economic times, according to a letter sent by Mead to his state’s congressional delegation.
“While I sympathize with the coal miners, something needs to be done to counteract government overreach attacking coal,” said Tom Tanton, president of T2 and Associates, an energy and technology consulting firm. “A cross subsidy from one successful area to another is not the right solution. Economic development is not served by de-development of other areas.”
Because it is still an active producer of coal, the State of Wyoming currently pays more than any other state into the AML program. The program is funded through fees collected on coal producers, which Mead says would increase under the RECLAIM Act.
If the RECLAIM Act is passed into law, most of the $1 billion shift would be sent to communities located in rural Appalachia where mining has ended or is in decline. Rogers successfully added a similar AML pilot project to the 2016 omnibus spending bill, which could send $90 million in economic redevelopment aid to Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.
“Rather than fighting amongst themselves, it would be better if coal-producing areas banded together to fight the anti-coal forces that have taken over the government,” Tanton said. “That would be better for them and for American consumers.”
Alyssa Carducci ([email protected]) writes from Tampa, Florida.