Washington, D.C. – U.S. Representative Hal Rogers, who represents areas in Eastern Kentucky, and other legislators, have introduced a bill that would provide $1 billion to revitalize coal communities hardest hit by the downturn of the coal industry.
The RECLAIM Act: Revitalizing the Economy of Coal Communities by Leveraging Local Activities and Investing More would accelerate available funding in the Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund.
Other Representatives to file the bill were Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.), Evan Jenkins (R-WV.), Don Beyer (D-Va.), and Morgan Griffith (R-Va.).
Coal communities throughout the United States have been struggling to cope with significant job losses after a decrease in nation-wide coal production in recent years, and the RECLAIM Act aims to support economic and community development projects in these areas. Specifically, the legislation releases $1 billion from the existing balance in the AML Fund to assist communities that have traditionally relied on the coal industry for employment or have recently experienced significant coal job losses. Under the plan, $200 million will be distributed to participating states annually for five years, and the legislation empowers States and Indian tribes to work with local communities to identify and fund economic development projects on AML sites.
“In Kentucky alone, we’ve lost more than 11,000 coal mining jobs since 2009. Instead of allowing those funds to go unused, now is the time to help our coal producing states reinvest in the coalfields with projects that can create new jobs and reinvigorate our economy,” said Rep. Rogers. “Many coal communities in Appalachia simply do not have the resources to reclaim the abandoned mine sites within their borders. This bill allows these communities to be proactive in restoring these sites and utilize them to put our people back to work.”
Passage of this legislation will compliment other congressional efforts that have aimed to support economic development in coal communities, such as increased and targeted funding for the Economic Development Administration and the Appalachian Regional Commission. The RECLAIM Act mirrors a section of the White House’s POWER+ proposal that requires a statutory change to the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA).
The majority of the funding will be directly distributed by the Secretary of the Interior to states with unmet reclamation needs. Meanwhile, $5 million each year will be provided through grants for coal-producing states that no longer have abandoned mine lands.
After two years, each state will have the opportunity to apply for bonus payments for any remaining AML funds that have not been utilized.
The RECLAIM Act also comes on the heels of a similar AML Pilot Project included in the 2016 Omnibus bill. The $90 million pilot – which will be implemented in Kentucky, Pennsylvania and West Virginia – will provide coal communities with grants to reclaim abandoned mine lands with economic development purposes in mind, create new job opportunities and stimulate the local economy.