House delegation introduces bill to invest in coal country

politics policy

Credit: wakila

Representatives Matt Cartwright (PA-08), Hal Rogers (KY-05), 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 the investment of $1 billion in unappropriated funds over the next five years, bringing roughly $300 million to Pennsylvania alone, giving states the tools they need to invest in communities that are dealing with the legacy of abandoned mines.  These old mine sites create problems such as polluted streams, hazardous erosion and land subsidence, underground mine fires, and piles of coal waste. The funding is intended to help resource-strapped states and tribes clean up over 20,000 high priority sites that remain unaddressed.

“This bill brings much-needed funding to struggling coal communities, while also helping them eliminate blight and pollution,” said Congressman Cartwright. “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.”

The RECLAIM Act, which was approved by the House Natural Resources Committee in the 115th Congress, was met with strong bipartisan support during a hearing organized by the Committee in March this year. Witnesses described the urgent need to remove the many environmental and health hazards caused by abandoned mines sites throughout Appalachia.

RECLAIM funds may be used to restore land and water resources polluted by mine waste; to seal and fill abandoned deep mine entries and voids; to plant land and prevent erosion and sedimentation; and to treat water pollution 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 with a stagnant tax base.

“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.”

“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, a Republican from Kentucky. “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.”

“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 has been endorsed by several national organizations, including the Sierra Club, Voices for Progress, the Prairie Rivers Network, Appalachian Voices, the Western Organization of resources Councils, the Western Colorado Alliance for Community Action, the Alliance for Appalachia, the Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center, the BlueGreen Alliance, the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Wilderness Society, Diné Citizens Against Running our Environment, the Eastern PA Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation (EPCAMR), the Foundation for PA Watersheds, the Citizens Coal Council, and the National Wildlife Federation.

“The RECLAIM Act will create good-paying jobs by reclaiming abandoned mine land and providing economic opportunity in areas that are struggling right now,” said BlueGreen Alliance Interim Co-Executive Director Michael Williams. “It is critical that as our nation moves toward a clean energy economy, we make sure that no worker or community is left behind. The RECLAIM Act is an important step toward a better future for all.”

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