Today, Rep. Hal Rogers – along with several other Appalachian state representatives – filed the RECLAIM Act, which would release $1 billion in abandoned mine land (AML) funds through the POWER+ Plan for economic development related to land remediation of formerly mined and adjacent lands.
The bill is a bipartisan effort that would help coal communities across the country deal with the affects of decreased coal production: job loss, economic decline, lack of new opportunities. Under RECLAIM (which stands for “Revitalizing the Economy of Coal Communities by Leveraging Local Activities and Investing More”), $200 million will be distributed to participating states annually for economic and community development on AML sites.
This is huge news for Central Appalachian communities, who have been signing on to a resolution of support for the POWER+ Plan since last year. The AML money would help create jobs for land remediation projects that would boost local economies across the region. As eastern Kentucky coal production continues to decline, taking the amount of available coal severance tax dollars with it, a boost in funding from AML funds could not come at a better time.
We hope the RECLAIM Act will pass the House and receive support in the Senate on it’s way to the President’s desk. Appalachian can’t wait much longer for this kind of federal support.
Click here for a summary of the RECLAIM Act.
Click here for the full text of the bill.
UPDATE: Several organizations in Central Appalachian have released statements in response to the announcement of the RECLAIM Act. In MACED’s response, President Peter Hille said:
We know that in order to bring a just economic transition to Central Appalachia, the environmental legacy costs of coal mining must be addressed. We also know that in addressing them, we can provide new economic opportunities to our people. That’s why we fully support the RECLAIM Act. Not only will it create jobs that will help to revitalize communities, it will also help to reverse adverse affects of decades of surface mining, serving to improve the quality of the region’s land and water, which will lead to improved public health. These significant federal investments represent an acknowledgement of the contribution our region’s people have made to the development of this nation, and the burden they bear as the economy shifts away from coal. This understanding lies at the heart of the concept of just transition to a new, post-coal economy.
The Lexington Herald-Leader editorial board was also good to remind us that just as important as the announcement and possibility of RECLAIM, is the consideration of how those AML funds would be controlled at the local level:
if coalfield leaders, in both public and private sectors, were brimming with ideas for diversifying the economy, the region wouldn’t be chained to a single dying industry. And if we keep doing the same things we’ve always done, nothing will change. The anti-poverty programs of the 1960s fell far short of transformational because they were co-opted by powerful local people who profited from the existing economic order.
Extreme skepticism should greet blueprints for Shangri-La on the strip mine or roads to nowhere: The AML economic development fund must not become a porkfest for the usual contractors and cronies; if that happens the lost opportunity will be tragic.
A new website about the POWER+ Plan now exists, through which you can learn more about the PPP, and see a roundup of statements of support for RECLAIM. You can also sign a resolution of support for the POWER+ Plan on the site.