Use Abandoned Mine Lands funds for economic development in Appalachia

Back in August, we made the case for using Abandoned Mine Lands funds to put laid-off coal miners back to work reclaiming former mine sites in eastern Kentucky.
The fund currently contains about $2.5 billion, which could provide immediate relief for a group of folks whom we believe could stand to benefit from a job that would feed their souls as well as their families.

There’s been another suggestion for the AML funds recently that we think should gain traction as well. Pike County Judge-Executive Wayne T. Rutherford has proposed expansion of the uses of AML funds to include infrastructure and economic development. Right now, the fund, which comes from taxes on mined coal, can only be used to help mitigate and alleviate environmental damage on former mined lands.

In a letter to President Obama, Representative Hal Rogers, and the U.S. Congressional delegations from Kentucky, West Virginia and Virginia, Rutherford “implores them to ‘work to free up this vital AML money, not to spend recklessly or indulgently, but to reinvest responsibly in our coal counties.’”

He continued:

Now, and with haste, we must act and invest if we are to reclaim Central Appalachia’s future for our people. The leadership here has the passion and commitment to save our economy and tomorrows. We need understanding, cooperation and a viable plan in order to succeed.

It will take significant investment in order for Central Appalachia to act on strategies to diversify its economy and transition into a brighter future. The AML funds would definitely be a boon to that investment. It would be shameful for that money to sit idle when it could help boost the prospects for the region’s economic future. Our national leadership should act to shift the AML’s goals to include investment in economic development and infrastructure improvement.