Press Release

Community advocates urge Congress to include key coal community investments in forthcoming budget legislation

STREAM Act, Black Lung Benefits Improvement Act and AMLER Investments would provide much-needed support and job-creation across coal country

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 19, 2022

Contact:
Trey Pollard, trey@pollardcommunications.com, 202-904-9187

COAL COUNTRY — Congressional appropriations leaders are preparing to release omnibus spending legislation for FY2023 today, and community advocates from across coal country are urging them to ensure several long-standing priority investments are included. Advocates argue that the omnibus legislation is an important opportunity to get three key provisions over the finish line:

The Safeguarding Treatment for the Restoration of Ecosystems from Abandoned Mines Act. The bipartisan STREAM Act would guarantee that major new investments in abandoned mine land clean up can be directed to address acid mine drainage that threatens waterways across the country. Introduced by Reps. Matt Cartwright, D-Penn., and David McKinley, R-W.Va., in the House and by Sens. Bob Casey, D-Penn., and Mike Braun, R-Indiana, in the Senate, the bill addresses a technical issue in the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to ensure that some of the $11.3 billion in funding for the Abandoned Mine Lands program can be put in set-aside accounts for the long-term treatment of AMD. The STREAM Act just passed the Senate by unanimous consent last week, but amendments made in the Senate must be approved by the House. For more on the bill, visit here.

“This is our moment to finally tackle the acid mine drainage crisis while creating jobs and improving our communities at the same time,” said Dana Kuhnline, Campaign Manager, ReImagine Appalachia. “There is strong bipartisan momentum for the STREAM Act, which already passed the Senate unanimously. Now we need Congress to get it over the finish line to ensure that states can clean up the polluted water that has loomed large in coal mining communities for generations.”

Increased funding and improved transparency for the Abandoned Mine Land Economic Revitalization Program. Created in 2016 to reclaim abandoned mine lands and spur economic development in coal communities, the AMLER program provides funding for job-creating projects in places where they are needed most. Community advocates note the program is already oversubscribed, meaning opportunities and economic growth may be going untapped. Increased funding would lead to more economic development and more job creation. For more on this request, visit here. Additionally, Congress can make improvements to the program to improve transparency and access to the funds, maximizing the community benefits of the program.

“The AMLER program is exactly the kind of economic stimulus needed in coal communities, but it won’t meet its full potential without Congress providing the resources to get the job done right,” said Chelsea Barnes, Legislative Director for Appalachian Voices. “We need to ensure this powerful tool can be as useful as possible, so it is past time Congress provide the needed investments to help the hardest-hit energy communities by increasing AMLER funding in the omnibus.”

The Black Lung Benefits Improvement Act. Reintroduced this Congress by U.S. Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Bob Casey, D-Penn., Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Tim Kaine, D-Virginia, and Mark Warner, D-Virginia, this bill passed through House committee but has since stagnated. The BLBIA helps solve a number of the problems miners with black lung and their families face. Specifically, it ensures miners have representation in their fight to secure benefits and updates benefit levels so that they adjust with inflation. It will ensure those who sacrificed their health working in the mines for coal companies to power our country get what they’ve earned. With funding for the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund secured by the Inflation Reduction Act, this bill offers a crucial complement, tearing down long-standing barriers to a safety net for miners with black lung. For more on this bill, visit here.

“Now that the Inflation Reduction Act secured resources to support miners with black lung and their families, we need to be sure those resources are accessible and sufficient enough to do the job they were designed to do,” said Rebecca Shelton, Director of Policy and Organizing for Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center. “This legislation gives miners the support they need to navigate the benefits process and ensures the resources they receive are adjusted based on the cost of living. This is the least we could do for the men and women who contracted a deadly occupational disease while working to power our nation.”

Omnibus spending legislation is expected to be released as early as today. The grassroots fight for these coal community priorities has been going on for years as a key front for the effort to spur equitable, sustainable economic growth in the places where coal once dominated.

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