Coal / Reclaim Act

Bill to increase coal-mine spending advances

Rob Rice (left), chief of the West Virginia Office of Abandoned Mine Lands and Reclamation, and planner Jonathan Knight check on the smoldering underground fire at a long-abandoned coal mine in Preston County earlier this year. Legislation to speed-up the funding of abandoned coal-mine cleanups and to focus some of that spending on projects that help the economy in ailing coalfield communities moved a step ahead Tuesday in the U.S. House (Credit: AP file photo).

WASHINGTON, DC — “Legislation to speed up the funding of abandoned coal-mine cleanups and to focus some of that spending on projects that help the economy in ailing coalfield communities moved a step ahead Tuesday in the U.S. House.

Members of the House Committee on Natural Resources approved what is known as the “RECLAIM Act,” and sent the measure on to the House floor. The full name of the bill is the ‘Revitalizing the Economy of Coal Communities by Leveraging Local Activities and Investing More Act of 2017.’

Under the bill, the federal government would advance the release of $1 billion — $200 million annually for five years — in money from the Abandoned Mine Lands, or AML, program to help communities that have traditionally relied on coal production for jobs but have been hurt by the downturn in the coal industry that’s been brought on by low-priced natural gas, increased use of renewable energy, the mining out of quality coal seams, and some increased environmental regulation.

Committee members approved an amendment to the bill that aims to ensure that projects funded by the additional money would be aimed at improving local economies, and that those projects were developed at least partly with input from local citizens. The amendment also gives state administrators running AML programs some flexibility to ensure high-priority abandoned mine sites continue to be reclaimed.”

— Ken Ward Jr., Charleston Gazette-Mail

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