Saturday, March 21, 2020

Cong. Cartwright Asks Congressional Leaders To Reject Coal Industry Call To Suspend Federal Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fee, Black Lung Tax

On March 20, Congressman Matt Cartwright (D-PA) and U.S. House Natural Resources Committee Chair Raul M. Grijalva (D-AZ) wrote to the leadership of the U.S. Senate and House urging them not to go along with a National Coal Association recommendation to suspend or reduce the federal Abandoned Mine Reclamation fee and cut the tax supporting victims of black lung disease.
The letter said--
“We are writing to urge you to not include unnecessary provisions requested by the National Mining Association (NMA) on behalf of the coal industry in any legislation being drafted to address the tremendous health and economic challenges the country is facing from COVID-19.
“The coal industry is taking advantage of the country’s current circumstances to advocate for policies that are completely unrelated to the current crisis, policies that would in fact set back efforts to improve the health and lives of people across the country.
“At a time when the country is facing a pandemic due to a respiratory illness, it is particularly egregious for the coal industry to advocate reducing the Black Lung Excise Tax, which is essential for providing medical services for approximately 25,000 sick miners. 
“The rate is already scheduled to go down at the end of this Fiscal Year, and Congress’ priority should be to extend the current rates for at least a full decade, which is necessary to ensure that these miners continue to receive treatment.
“Cutting the Abandoned Mine Land (AML) fee would be equally shortsighted. AML
projects create jobs and economic development in often-struggling communities while addressing long standing health and environmental hazards. 
“States have already been receiving less AML money in recent years due to declining coal production levels, and the program is slated to expire next year while a $12 billion backlog in un-reclaimed abandoned mine sites remains. 
“Again, Congress should be prioritizing the exact opposite of the NMA letter: reauthorization of the AML program and enhanced spending on reclamation projects that create jobs and new economic opportunities. 
“It is disappointing that the coal industry is advocating for policies that would not help the tens of thousands of sick, retired, and out-of-work miners that need immediate help and the communities that are still recovering from the legacy of environmental damage caused by the coal industry. 
“We urge you to reject the NMA wish-list and focus federal resources on the workers, families, and communities that are being hardest hit by this crisis.”
100+ Groups Urge Action
On March 9, over 100 organizations have signed on to a letter urging Congressional House Leadership to support legislation critical to the communities and miners struggling with America’s declining demand for coal.
These bills have stalled in Congress, despite bipartisan support and an urgent need for solutions in former coal mining communities. Click Here for more.
Pennsylvania depends on federal Abandoned Mine Reclamation funding to support the vast majority of projects to make dangerous abandoned mines safe and to cleanup acid mine drainage across the state.
Related Article:
[Posted: March 21, 2020] PA Environment Digest

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