WASHINGTON, DC (March 27, 2017) – Today, Congressional leaders united across the aisle and the Capitol Dome to reintroduce the bipartisan RECLAIM Act. The legislation aims to 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 RECLAIM Act: Revitalizing the Economy of Coal Communities by Leveraging Local Activities and Investing More, was filed today in both chambers by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.), Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-WV.), Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.) and Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-Pa.).
As the lead sponsor in the Senate, Leader McConnell worked diligently to ensure the bill focuses on reclamation of the nation’s remaining six million acres of abandoned mine land, while also enabling economic development on those sites through agency support from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC).
“I thank Congressman Hal Rogers for his leadership, and I look forward to continuing our efforts to bring relief to Kentucky’s struggling coal communities through the RECLAIM Act. By working with local leaders and stakeholders, we will be able to provide additional support for vital environmental reclamation, economic development, and job training in Appalachia,” said Senator McConnell. “After suffering eight years of job losses in the coalfields, Kentucky families and communities are in need, and this bill would provide additional resources to these regions. The RECLAIM Act of 2017 would build upon the successful pilot program that Congressman Rogers and I championed to bring assistance to coal communities, and I am proud to sponsor this legislation in the Senate.”
Congressman Hal Rogers led robust conversations in the U.S. House over the last year to ensure the revised RECLAIM Act gives each state the flexibility they need to utilize available funding through a fair and transparent process.
“Over the last eight years, we’ve lost more than 13,000 coal mining jobs in Kentucky alone, and through this bill, we have an incredible opportunity to make sure that our coal producing states can access funding that is readily available to restore our land and revive our economy,” said Congressman Rogers. “I applaud Senate Leader McConnell for leading the charge in the Senate to help this worthy bill make headway in the new Congress.”
While the Department of Interior’s AML program has distributed over $8 billion to these communities for reclamation and other purposes since 1977, approximately $2.4 billion currently remains in the AML Fund’s existing, unappropriated balance.
This bill will release $1 billion from the fund to stimulate new Abandoned Mine Land cleanup and economic development projects where it is needed the most.
“It is no secret that coal communities in West Virginia have suffered significant economic damage after eight years of harmful anti-coal policies,” said Senator Capito. “Strengthening these distressed regions, and creating an environment where job creation and business investment can thrive is one of my top priorities. The RECLAIM Act will help fund local projects that have the potential to help the region’s economy recover. I’m proud to join with my colleagues to introduce this important legislation.”
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 AML sites.
“The coal-mining industry is vital to the history, character, and economy of Northeastern Pennsylvania. The decline of coal production impacted families whose livelihoods depended on these jobs, benefits, and pensions,” said Congressman Cartwright. “We must also address the often devastating environmental legacy of abandoned mines. Addressing abandoned mine sites and utilizing the reclaimed land for economic development will improve our environment, create jobs, and reinvigorate coal-mining communities. I have appreciated working with Congressman Rogers on this important bill for the past year, and I believe the bill introduced today goes a long way towards addressing the needs of communities affected by abandoned mines. I look forward to working with my colleagues to continue to improve the language as it moves through the legislative process over the coming weeks.”
“The downturn in coal has decimated communities across Appalachia and hurt thousands of hardworking miners and their families. Our towns, counties and states need the resources to rebuild, diversify our economy, attract new employers, create jobs, and give hope to the people who call Appalachia home,” said Congressman Jenkins. “The RECLAIM Act will spur a new era of investment and revitalization in West Virginia and beyond. I commend Congressman Rogers, Leader McConnell, and my fellow cosponsors for their passion for helping Appalachia and their commitment to getting our economy moving again.”
The RECLAIM Act follows the successful implementation of the AML Pilot Project, which was enacted in the 2016 Omnibus Appropriations bill. The $90 million pilot – spearheaded in Kentucky, Pennsylvania and West Virginia – provided coal communities with grants to reclaim abandoned mine lands with economic development purposes in mind, create new job opportunities and stimulate the local economy.
“The AML Fund can provide resources for hard-hit coal communities to refuel their local economies. This funding will support reclamation projects that can create jobs in areas where jobs are much needed,” said Congressman Griffith. “Job creation and economic growth will bring much needed relief to Southwest Virginia and throughout Appalachia, where thousands of coal and coal-related jobs have been lost from the regulatory onslaught on the coal industry. I am pleased to see the ARC headquarters will be moved out of Washington, D.C., and into Appalachia. I am a strong advocate of moving bureaucrats out of Washington and into the communities they serve.”
The RECLAIM Act requires the public to be notified during the project planning process and be given the opportunity to comment at public meetings near proposed project sites.
“The RECLAIM Act is critical to Pennsylvania, especially the 5 th Congressional District, which is home to more abandoned mine sites than any other place in the country,” said Congressman Thompson. “Ensuring that we have adequate resources to clean up these locations will provide great economic and environmental benefits, especially to our watersheds and streams. I am pleased to be leading this effort with Rep. Rogers and look forward to working in tandem with Pennsylvania’s advocates to move this bill through the legislative process.”
The RECLAIM Act requires the Secretary of the Interior Department to report to Congress about all RECLAIM projects and the resulting economic benefits.