Tuesday, June 27, 2017

U.S. House Natural Resources Committee Reports Out RECLAIM Mine Reclamation Initiative

The U.S. House Natural Resources Committee Tuesday amended and reported out H.R. 1731, the RECLAIM (Revitalizing the Economy of Coal Communities By Leveraging Local Activities and Investing More) Act mine reclamation and economic development initiative to the full House, according to Robert Hughes, Executive Director of the Eastern PA Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation Coalition.
H.R. 1731 would make $275 million available over 5 years to states and Indian tribes to reclaim abandoned mines that promote economic revitalization.
The coal industry is opposed to the bill.  Pennsylvania and the National Association of Abandoned Mine Lands Programs and the Interstate Mining Compact Commission and many other groups support the proposal.
An amendment to the bill made by Congressman Glenn Thompson (R-PA) strengthened the bill by prohibiting states using federal mine reclamation funds for purposes other than mine reclamation from receiving future funding under this program.
John Dawes, executive director of the Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds, noted that the RECLAIM bill has solid bi-partisan support. “Members of the Natural Resources Committee from both parties clearly understand how important RECLAIM is to struggling coal communities,” he said. “It’s great to see bi-partisan cooperation to advance this bill that both cleans the environment and creates jobs. We really appreciate Rep Thompson’s strong support of the bill in committee.” “Pennsylvania still has 180,000 acres of polluted, abandoned mine lands and 5,000 miles of mine-polluted streams to clean up,” said Dawes. “Projects like Ehrenfeld [Cambria County] show how RECLAIM could fix long-standing environmental hazards, put people to work, and create a better future for rural coal communities.”
There is also a companion bill in the U.S. Senate S.728 (McConnell-R-KY).
Click Here to watch of video of the Committee markup session.
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 PA 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: andy@wpcamr.org.
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