House subcommittee told of the benefits of AML, RECLAIM | Kentuckians For The Commonwealth

House subcommittee told of the benefits of AML, RECLAIM

The federal RECLAIM Act, legislation to boost economic transition efforts in the nation’s coal communities by accelerating the release of $1 billion for mine reclamation projects tied to local economic development efforts, is expected to be re-introduced in the new Congress in mid-April.

RECLAIM was included in a discussion of “Abandoned Mine Reclamation: Innovative Approaches and Economic Development Opportunities” before the House Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee heard testimony on March 28. Eric Dixon of the Appalachian Citizens Law Center in Letcher County explained to committee members why RECLAIM is needed.

The RECLAIM Act has two main goals, Dixon said. “First, create thousands of jobs fixing damaged land and water – jobs that many people in the local workforce including laid-off coal miners and others have the heavy machinery skills to do well.

“Second, to spur many more jobs through development on these sites once they’re cleaned up.”

The Abandoned Mine Lands program, funded by a fee on coal mined, would pay for environmental remediation on the thousands of unreclaimed mine sites in Kentucky. Through the RECLAIM Act, these sites would be “reclaimed with economic development use in mind … making a meaningful contribution to building a new diverse economy,” Dixon explained.

He also emphasized that “RECLAIM is only part of that much, much larger task” and urged Congress to also address the black lung epidemic.

“I urge Congress to listen to the community-led movement for a brighter future in our nation’s coal communities and pass the RECLAIM Act as soon as possible.”

Rep. Alan Lowenthal, the subcommittee chair, seemed supportive of the Abandoned Mine Lands program, which expires in 2021 if not re-authorization by Congress.

AML is based on the premise that polluters should pay,” Lowenthal explained at the start of the hearing. "The coal industry and not the American people must pay for the legacy of pollution. For a century the coal industry extracted profits and ignored the pollution they left behind.”

He said that there is still more than $10 billion in abandoned mine cleanup costs, even though the program has been in place for decades.

“Abandoned mine reclamation projects can improve the environment and protect the public health while leading to jobs and economic develop opportunities,” Lowenthal added.