APPALACHIA – Yesterday, a bipartisan group of senators and representatives sent a letter to congressional leadership and members of the Senate and House Appropriations Committees calling for increased funding to the Abandoned Mine Land Economic Revitalization (AMLER) Program for Fiscal Year 2022 as Congress works to finalize the appropriations bill before March 11.
In the letter led by Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, six Senators and seven members of the House ask their colleagues to fund the AMLER program at $165 million, an increase of $50 million compared to recent years. This amount is consistent with the amount proposed by the Biden Administration.
The AMLER Program, formerly known as the AML Pilot Program, provides grants to communities in six Appalachian states and three tribes with abandoned coal mines to fund job-creating economic development projects. The program was initially created as a pilot program for the RECLAIM Act, which has stalled in Congress despite bipartisan support.
“In Swoyersville, Pennsylvania, EPCAMR continues to work with our partners and have removed nearly 100,000 tons of waste culm material using AMLER resources. Once cleaned up, nearly 7.5 acres of waste culm that once divided the town will be turned over to the local community to become a community athletic area,” said Bobby Hughes, executive director of EPCAMR. “Additional funding for AMLER could allow EPCAMR and our partners to explore new projects that would not be possible otherwise, including solar development on abandoned mine lands. AMLER funding is essential to continue this important work at the intersection of economic development and abandoned mine land clean up.”
“The AMLER program provides vital economic development funds for the areas most affected by the decline of the coal industry,” said Chelsea Barnes, Legislative Director for Appalachian Voices. “Grant recipients have used this program to build new recreational trails, entertainment venues, business facilities, tourist attractions, and solar energy — all benefiting the local economies of transitioning coal communities and creating jobs. We applaud these congressional leaders for their efforts to support coal-impacted communities.”
The AMLER program is distinct from the federal Abandoned Mine Land program, which focuses on reclamation and prioritizes sites based on how dangerous they are. The AMLER program supports communities struggling with both the environmental and economic hardships of a declining coal industry, and allows communities to prioritize sites based on their economic development potential.
“AMLER allows communities to advance innovative projects to address the challenges unique to coal-impacted communities that wouldn’t be possible through other funding streams,” said Dana Kuhnline, Campaign Coordinator for the RECLAIM Coalition.
For FY2022, OSMRE recommended a $50 million increase to AMLER program levels, for a total of $165 million in funding for FY22. The House has filled that request by including the recommended increase in the Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2022 — which passed the House in 2021. This bill would distribute $35 million each to the three states with the highest abandoned mine land inventory, $15 million each for the second set of three states, and $5 million each for the Navajo, Hopi, and Crow tribes. As introduced, the Senate’s version did not include the $50 million increase. Congress is currently negotiating the final version of the FY 2022 appropriations bill.
Appalachian Voices is a leading nonprofit advocate for a healthy environment and just economy in the Appalachian region, and a driving force in America’s shift from fossil fuels to a clean energy future.