As Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, U.S. Rep. Harold "Hal" Rogers (KY-05), continues to advocate for critical federal support to help resurrect coal communities through the fiscal year 2017 budget process. Chairman Rogers worked diligently to secure increased funding for key federal programs in the fiscal year 2016 Omnibus bill that Congress passed in December.
The Omnibus included an additional $50 million to support economic development initiatives through the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), plus $15 million through the Economic Development Administration (EDA) to help create jobs and new economic opportunities. Both amounts were significant increases above the President’s budget request. Additionally, Rogers developed a $90 million pilot project to repurpose abandoned mine lands in Appalachia for community and economic development. Three of the states hardest hit by President Obama’s “War on Coal” -- Kentucky, West Virginia and Pennsylvania – are participating in the pilot.
"At every relevant hearing, I'm not only working with national leaders to draw their attention to the challenges we’re facing in Appalachia, but I'm specifically requesting the regulatory relief that our coal industry desperately needs to ensure coal continues to be a part of our energy portfolio. Coal is essential to job creation and keeping our utility rates affordable for families and businesses across the country," said Rogers. "In Eastern Kentucky, we launched SOAR -Shaping Our Appalachian Region, an unprecedented, holistic grassroots effort to help diversify the economy in light of the devastating loss of nearly 11,000 coal mining jobs since 2009. SOAR has garnered support from the federal, state and local levels, but a revitalization effort of this magnitude will require continued dedication and support."
This year, Rogers has advocated for coal country through budget hearings with the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the U.S. Department of Interior.
"Efforts such as the AML pilot program that this Committee began last year and the President’s POWER Plus proposal for economic development on abandoned mine lands represent just a small portion of what it is going to take to get Appalachia back on its feet," Rogers stated during a recent hearing with Interior Secretary, Sally Jewell. "The job creators in this region need relief from these onerous regulations in order to keep jobs in the coal fields online and to turn their good ideas for economic diversification into employment opportunities."
"We need to set the right priorities here, in Washington, so that they can resurrect their economies and put their people back to work," continued Rogers.
Rogers will question EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy about the agency's budget next week. Click here to watch the budget hearing, scheduled for Tuesday, March 22, 2016 at 9:00 a.m.