Press Release

Community groups call on Congress to increase economic revitalization funding

Organizations and local governments call for higher funding level for Abandoned Mine Land Economic Revitalization Program

CONTACT:

Dan Radmacher, (540) 798-6683), dan@appvoices.org

APPALACHIA — Today, 26 organizations, businesses and local governments from coal mining communities sent a letter to leaders of the Senate and House Appropriations Committees calling for increased funding to the Abandoned Mine Land Economic Revitalization (AMLER) Program for Fiscal Year 2023 as Congress works to draft the next appropriations bill.

“The AML Economic Revitalization program has supported hundreds of community-driven projects in coal-impacted communities,” said Veronica Coptis, director of Center for Coalfield Justice in southwestern Pennsylvania. “These projects have been a game-changer for many communities dealing with the decline of the industry and increased funding will allow many other communities to see the benefits of improving communities quality of life and economy.”

The Mountain View Marina (formerly Flannagan Marina) in Dickenson County, Virginia, is the type of economic development project that could benefit from AMLER funding to develop new cabins and campsites on an abandoned mine land feature. Photo by Ashley Oquin

In the letter, the organizations and local government leaders ask the committees to fund the AMLER program at $165 million, an increase of $42.5 million compared to the amount approved for FY 2022. This amount is consistent with the amount proposed by the Biden Administration in FY 2022 and approved by the House for FY 2022, however the administration reduced its funding request for FY2023.

The groups also call on Congress to include report language in the appropriations bill requiring the Office of Surface Mining, Enforcement and Reclamation to examine state implementation of the program to date.

“The program is now in its seventh year,” said Joey James, Principal at Downstream Strategies, which provides technical support for many programs funded by the AMLER program. “It is no longer an experimental pilot program. The Office of Surface Mining should conduct a thorough review of the project decision-making and administrative processes that individual states are using to implement the AMLER program and provide better guidance and oversight to streamline project implementation.”

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.

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.

For FY2022, the Biden administration recommended a $50 million increase to AMLER program levels, for a total of $165 million in funding for FY22. The House 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 proposal would have distributed $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.

However, for FY 2023, the Biden administration reduced its request for the program to $115 million.

“The Abandoned Mine Land Economic Revitalization program remains important and effective for coal-impacted communities,” said Chelsea Barnes, Legislative Director for Appalachian Voices. “As the administration works to fulfill its promise to transitioning coal mining communities, and as demand for AMLER funds have far outstripped appropriations, now is not the time to back-step support for these crucial environmental and economic development projects.”

Congress is currently negotiating the FY 2023 appropriations bill, which must be approved by October of this year.

List of groups who signed the letter

American Friends Service Committee (Pennsylvania)
Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center
Appalachian Voices
Boyd County, Kentucky Fiscal Court
Center for Coalfield Justice (Pennsylvania)
City of Smithers, West Virginia
Coalfield Development Corp. (West Virginia)
Downstream Strategies (West Virginia)
Friends For Environmental Justice (Appalachia)
Kentuckians For The Commonwealth
Kentucky Resources Council
Mountain Association
Mountain View Marina & Campground, LLC (Dickenson County, Virginia)
National Wildlife Federation
Pennsylvania Council of Churches
Pocahontas Off Road, LLC (Tazewell County, Virginia)
Rural Action (Ohio)
Russell County, Virginia
Sierra Club
Shaping Our Appalachian Region (Kentucky)
The Alliance for Appalachia
The Clinch Coalition (Virginia)
Tó Nizhóní Ání (Diné/Navajo)
West Virginia Council of Churches
West Virginia Rivers Coalition
WV Citizen Action

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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.

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