A citizens group working to renew Eastern Kentucky’s economy is making a push this week for a proposal to free up $1 billion for reclamation work in struggling coal communities.
Members of Kentuckians For The Commonwealth delivered petitions with nearly 10,000 names to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s district office in London, Kentucky.
The petitions urge McConnell to help push through a proposal called the RECLAIM Act, which could be at a critical point this week with Congress likely to recess soon.
The proposal would accelerate the release of $1 billion from the federal abandoned mine land fund. The idea is to tie the reclamation of old mined land to projects that could help diversify the economy of Eastern Kentucky and other areas grappling with a sharp downturn in coal jobs.
The full name of the RECLAIM Act bill is Revitalizing the Economy of Coal Communities by Leveraging Local Activities and Investing More Act of 2016 (or the RECLAIM Act of 2016).
This bill amends the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 to make specified funds available to the Department of the Interior for each of FY2017-FY2021 for distribution to states and Indian tribes to promote economic revitalization, diversification, and development in economically distressed communities through the reclamation and restoration of land and water resources adversely affected by coal mining carried out before August 3, 1977.
The bill prescribes general requirements for projects to reclaim abandoned mine lands and waters that are likely to create favorable conditions for the economic development of the project site or promote the general welfare through economic and community development of the area in which the project is conducted. Any such project shall be located in a community affected by a recent decline in mining.
A state or Indian tribe that receives funds under this bill may retain a portion of them as necessary to supplement its acid mine drainage abatement and treatment fund for future operation and maintenance costs for the treatment of acid mine drainage associated with individual projects.
The RECLAIM Act could thus go a long way towards kick-starting a coal mining Restoration Economy in Appalachia.
Photo of closed coal mine and toxic water via Adobe Stock.