A mine-reclamation and economic development measure that was funded as a pilot project this year could get complete funding under a bipartisan bill introduced by U.S. Representative Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) on Wednesday. The Lexington Herald-Leader has the story.
The proposal is co-sponsored by Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.), Evan Jenkins (R-W.V.), Don Beyer (D-Va.), and Morgan Griffith (R-Va.).
The bill would release $1 billion from a federal fund set aside to pay for restoring abandoned mine lands. Under the proposal, projects could target lands suitable for economic development. Currently, the federal abandoned mine lands fund prioritizes reclaiming land based only on whether it is dangerous to humans or the environment.
The project is supposed to help coal-dependent regions, which have hemorrhaged jobs over the last decade, restart their economies.
The proposed funding, called the RECLAIM Act, is similar to a White House plan called Power+ that the president included in this year’s budget proposal. Congress whittled the $1 billion request down to a pilot project – introduced by Rogers – that provides $30 million each for Kentucky, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania.
The Abandoned Mine Lands fund currently holds $2.5 billion. The fund is generated from a 35-cents-a-ton tax on mined coal. It was established to pay for the reclamation of mine lands that were abandoned before the 1977 surface mining act went into effect and began to hold mining companies liable for environmental damage to land.