In June, advocates for coal mine reclamation traveled to Washington, D.C., to urge their legislators to support the RECLAIM Act, a bipartisan bill to accelerate the clean-up of abandoned coal mines and boost economic opportunities in areas historically dependent on coal mining.
Those in the nation’s capitol included local people from communities affected by abandoned mines as well as staff from multiple nonprofit groups including Appalachian Voices, the organization that produces this newspaper.
In a couple of days, the team met with 45 offices, and in the month following their visit, the number of RECLAIM Act co-sponsors in the U.S. House of Representatives grew from 39 to 57. A version of the bill in the Senate has 7 co-sponsors.
The RECLAIM Act, H.R. 2156, would accelerate the spending of $1 billion that is currently sitting in the federal abandoned mine cleanup fund. The funds would be disbursed to states and tribes over five years starting in 2020. The money would go to abandoned mine cleanup that ties in to economic development projects with local support. These funds come from a tax on coal production that is specifically designated for reclaiming the millions of acres damaged by mines that were abandoned before 1977.
At a press conference in Washington, D.C., Kentucky State Rep. Angie Hatton said that passing the RECLAIM Act is an urgent issue for her struggling district in the eastern part of the state.
“We are pleading at this time for Mitch McConnell to join this fight for us, to be our voice and to move this legislation along,” Hatton said.
The bill’s legislative backers and other RECLAIM supporters are urging Congress to hold a full floor vote soon. — By Molly Moore