WASHINGTON, DC (April 10, 2019) – U.S. Representatives Hal Rogers (KY-05), Matt Cartwright (PA-08), Glenn Thompson (PA-15), and Don Beyer (VA-08) introduced bipartisan legislation on Tuesday to revitalize coal country by giving communities the funds they need to clean up abandoned mine lands.
The Revitalizing the Economy of Coal Communities by Leveraging Local Activities and Investing More Act (RECLAIM) Act will accelerate $1 billion in available funding in the Abandoned Mine Reclamation (AML) Fund over the next five years to revitalize coal communities hit hardest by the downturn of the coal industry. The funding, approximately $100 million of which would go to Kentucky, is intended to help resource-strapped states and tribes clean up over 20,000 high priority sites that remain unaddressed.
“The RECLAIM act provides a transformative opportunity for coal-producing states to fast-track available funding to restore our land and revive our economy in the coalfields,” said Congressman Rogers. “I thank my Appalachian colleague from across the aisle, Congressman Matt Cartwright, for his leadership in this new Congress and I look forward to working together to bring relief to our struggling coal communities across the country.”
The RECLAIM Act, which was approved by the House Natural Resources Committee in the 115th Congress, was met with bipartisan support during a hearing organized by the Committee in March this year. The bill would build upon the achievements of the AML pilot program, an initiative Rogers launched in 2016 to provide coal communities with grants to reclaim abandoned mine lands with economic development purposes in mind, create new job opportunities and stimulate the local economy. These funds have been used for a number of successful economic development and tourism-related projects in Southern and Eastern Kentucky, as well as five other states.
“This bill brings much-needed funding to struggling coal communities, while also helping them eliminate blight and pollution,” said Congressman Cartwright, a Democrat from Pennsylvania. “It’s a common-sense piece of legislation that will help Pennsylvanians reclaim these lands and create jobs that can transform entire communities. I applaud Congressman Rogers for his years of leadership on this critical issue.”
Under the plan, $200 million will be distributed to participating states annually for five years for the reclamation of priority AML sites, which in turn will empower States and Indian tribes to work with local communities to identify and fund economic development projects on the sites.
“Pennsylvania’s 15th Congressional District is home to more abandoned mine sites than any other district in the country,” said Congressman Thompson, a Republican from Pennsylvania. “Providing additional resources to clean up these locations will increase environmental benefits to our rivers and watersheds, and will have an added bonus of economic activity in many rural areas. I am pleased we can move forward in a bipartisan manner and will continue to work with Pennsylvania’s advocates to move this important bill through the legislative process.”
RECLAIM funds may be used to restore land and water resources; to seal and fill abandoned deep mine entries and voids; to plant land and prevent erosion and sedimentation; and to treat water damage created by coal mine drainage; among other purposes. These reclamation efforts will help streams recover, increase property values, and make land available for new economic uses that benefit struggling communities.
“As Lieutenant Governor of Virginia, I spent nine years touring Virginia’s coal counties, where I witnessed the harsh effects of an economic downturn as well as the degradation of the land,” said Congressman Beyer, a Democrat from Virginia.“By reinvesting this money in these communities, we will provide access to much needed jobs and help to restore unused and abandoned mines.”
The RECLAIM Act requires the Secretary of the Interior Department to report to Congress about all RECLAIM projects and the resulting economic benefits.