Thursday, April 6, 2017

U.S. House Hearing On RECLAIM Making $200M Available For Mine Reclamation

On Wednesday U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources, Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources held a hearing on HR 1731 that would make $200 million available over 5 years to states and Indian tribes to reclaim abandoned mines that promote economic revitalization.
Click Here to watch a video of the hearing.
Presenting testimony were Autumn Coleman, on behalf of the National Association of Abandoned Mine Lands Programs; Robert Scott on behalf of the Interstate Mining Compact Commission; Fritz Boettner, Downstream Strategies based in West Virginia and Congressman Harold Rogers (R-KY) prime sponsor of the bill.
Coleman offered support for the bill, and made several recommendations for improving the bill.
“Overall, H.R. 1731 seems decidedly structured such that states should be able to utilize their RECLAIM funding effectively within the terms of the bill, which is noted and appreciated by NAAMLP and IMCC,” said Coleman.  “We believe that the consideration given to states’ and Tribes’ ability to implement this program in the context of the existing structure of the AML programs will do much to ensure that the ongoing contribution of the AML program is not compromised, and that the RECLAIM Act does not unintentionally detract from its own goals as a result.”
In addition to supporting the legislation and offering suggestions for improvements, Scott said Congress must also reauthorize the per ton fee on coal that supports the federal Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund from which the RECLAIM funds are drawn.
“Reauthorization of SMCRA Title IV fee collection authority is a top AML legislative priority for IMCC [Interstate Mining Compact Commission] and NAAMLP [National Association of Abandoned Mine Lands Programs],” said Scott.  “The AML fee, on which the federal, state, and tribal AML programs rely for the vast majority of funding, is set to expire in 2021. Without this source of funding, the AML programs will be unable to continue operating for long.”
There is also a companion bill in the U.S. Senate S.728 (McConnell-R-KY).
Click Here to watch a video of the hearing and for written testimony.
Members of the Pennsylvania Choose Clean Water Coalition, including the Eastern PA Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation, were in Washington the same day as the hearing educating members on the need to keep federal funding for mine reclamation and clean water projects.
RECLAIM Pilot Program
The RECLAIM Act follows the successful implementation of the federal AML Pilot Project that was enacted in the 2016 Omnibus Appropriations bill.
That $90 million pilot – spearheaded in Pennsylvania ($30 million), West Virginia, and Kentucky – provided coal communities with grants to reclaim abandoned mine lands with economic development purposes in mind, create new job opportunities, and stimulate the local economy.
No new revenues are provided by this effort. The funding that would be provided through the RECLAIM Act already exists in the Abandoned Mine Land Trust Fund that was established in 1977 to help states saddled with the legacy of abandoned mine lands and polluted waters.
In Pennsylvania alone, the cost to remediate that legacy exceeds several billion dollars.
Reauthorize AML Fee
Also on the table in Congress is reauthorization of the federal Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fee which is the source of revenue for the RECLAIM and federal Abandoned Mine Reclamation Program.  The fees are set to expire in 2021.
The Western Pennsylvania Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation is participating in the national effort to reauthorize SMCRA by collaborating with States and Tribes to establish a grassroots campaign and publish tools for citizens, non-profits, and legislators to use for advocating for abandoned mine reclamation.
Click Here for a presentation by WPCAMR on fee reauthorization.  Click Here for a video on reauthorization.  Questions should be directed to Andy McAllister, WPCAMR, by calling by 724-832-3625 or send email to:
Campaign Starting Now To Reauthorize Federal Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fee

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