May 7, 2019 - U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., and U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., have introduced legislation in the U.S. Senate that seeks to provide opportunities for coal reclamation and economic development in communities that have been adversely impacted by the downturn in the coal industry.
The Revitalizing the Economy of Coal Communities by Leveraging Local Activities and Investing More (RECLAIM) Act of 2019 would release $1 billion from the existing Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund balance to help communities that have traditionally relied on coal production for jobs or have recently experienced significant coal job losses.
The funds are currently set to go towards reclamation projects, but the RECLAIM Act would stipulate that the states use the money on reclamation projects which would create conditions favorable to economic development. In total, $195 million would be distributed to states with Abandoned Mine Land (AML) programs each year from 2020 to 2024, including West Virginia and Virginia.
In addition to Manchin, Kaine and Warner, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., and U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill, also are co-sponsoring the measure.
“The RECLAIM Act is an investment in the coal communities that have done the heavy lifting that produced the energy that powered our country to greatness,” Manchin said last week. “These bills will provide a boost to struggling coal communities to help diversify their economies without a dime of taxpayer money.”
“Mine reclamation supports hundreds of jobs in Virginia each year, strengthens our economy, and helps clean up the environment,” Kaine added. “This bill would let money already sitting in the Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund be used to boost economic development in coal communities.”
“As technologies evolve and our economy changes, we cannot forget about the coal mining communities that for years fueled our nation,” Warner said. “The RECLAIM Act reiterates our economic commitment to these mining communities by fast-tracking the release of $1 billion from the Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund and using it to fund projects that reinvigorate communities, promote economic growth and counteract the environmental effects of coal mining locally.”
Manchin, Kaine and Warner are hoping to gain bipartisan support for this important act. Passage of the RECLAIM Act would provide an economic boost to coal-producing communities across southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia that are still struggling to create new jobs and economic development opportunities. Such reclamation projects also help to clean up the environment, as noted by Warner.
Despite the deep partisan divide in Washington, we would hope that helping communities adversely impacted by the downturn in the coal industry is something that all lawmakers can agree upon.
The RECLAIM Act merits full consideration in Congress.