By Molly Moore
A bipartisan bill to accelerate the reclamation of abandoned coal mines while boosting economic development is moving through Congress despite objections from the National Mining Association.
On June 27, the House Natural Resources Committee passed the RECLAIM Act, which was introduced by Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) to revitalize coal mining communities. The legislation would direct $1 billion over five years to restoring abandoned mine lands.
Committee members also approved an amendment put forward by Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) to require projects that receive funding under the bill to spur local economic development. Proponents of the bill, including Appalachian Voices, the publisher of this newspaper, hailed the amendment as an improvement to an earlier version.
Before the committee vote, the National Mining Association announced its opposition to the RECLAIM Act in a letter to lawmakers.
“At the very last minute, lobbyists for the coal industry decided to try to kill the bill,” says Appalachian Voices Senior Legislative Representative Thom Kay. “Fortunately, representatives worked across party lines to not only pass the legislation through committee, but to improve it along the way.”
As of early August, the RECLAIM Act had 25 co-sponsors in the House and five in the Senate. Advocates have said they hope the bill will reach the floor for a vote in fall 2017.
“A vote in favor of the RECLAIM Act is a vote to rescue coal country – and it’s the right thing to do,” Rep. Rogers said in a statement.
Learn more at appvoices.org/reclaim-committee