Press Release

Coal community advocates bash cuts to federal mine reclamation funding and urge restoration in FY25 budget

March 7, 2024

Trey Pollard – – 202-904-9187


COAL COUNTRY – As Congress advances a government funding bill that slashes millions in funding for the agency charged with supporting critical mine reclamation projects and enforcing mine reclamation standards, seventeen local, regional and national organizations released a letter urging Congress to restore this funding and bolster the work of the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement in 2025 spending bills.

The compromise spending legislation currently expected to advance in Congress to keep the government open in 2024 would slash funding for OSMRE by $18 million from 2023 levels. These cuts come as OSMRE is responsible for a growing number of mine reclamation projects amid the coal industry’s decline, given the agency’s role monitoring enforcement of reclamation laws at coal mines and administering key initiatives, including the Abandoned Mine Land program.

“This is exactly the wrong time to cut funding from OSMRE,” said Rebecca Shelton, Director of Policy at Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center. “That agency needs adequate staffing and resources right now to be able to do its job to protect our communities and create new jobs by cleaning up the coal mines that aren’t producing coal and that put our homes, businesses and families at risk. Congress shouldn’t waste another opportunity to support OSMRE, and must prioritize investments in the agency in the next fiscal year.”

The newly released FY 2024 appropriations bill also threatens further cuts to OSMRE’s budget if the agency fails to release funding for economic development projects under the AML Economic Revitalization program within 90 days — a sharp departure from previous deadlines. Such a change adds new pressure to the agency while providing fewer resources to do its job.

“Requiring OSMRE to direct its focus to economic development rather than protecting communities and waterways and ensuring proper mine cleanup is deeply concerning,” said Chelsea Barnes, Director of Government Affairs and Strategy at Appalachian Voices. “While the AMLER program is beneficial in coal-impacted communities, OSMRE’s core function of protecting community health and safety should not be sacrificed to advance these economic development activities.”

Today’s letter to congressional leaders from 17 community organizations prioritizes several key investments that would help OSMRE do its job to address and prevent unreclaimed “zombie mines” — idled modern-era mines that have not been cleaned up by responsible coal companies. First among those is a request to fully fund OSMRE at $301.9 million.

“Given the historic investment in the AML program established in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the lack of reclamation at modern mines as the industry declines, it is crucial that OSMRE has the necessary operating budget to provide oversight, enforcement and administration of these programs,” the letter reads.

In addition, the organizations are urging additional funding for OSMRE to:

  • Conduct a “stress test” for the largest coal surety providers and state-administered bond pools to ensure that they would be able to honor their bonds if large numbers of permits are forfeited.
  • Require OSMRE to publicly report the full scope of the “zombie mine” problem, including the number, location and size of coal sites that have neither produced coal nor made reclamation progress for a year or longer since 2019.

There are nearly 1 million acres of modern coal mines in 12 states that have not yet been reclaimed, according to analyses by the Western Organization of Resource Councils and Appalachian Voices. The problem is anticipated only to grow amid the ongoing decline of the coal industry. Last month, more than 50 organizations endorsed and released a new federal policy platform that serves as a road map of recommendations to tackle the “zombie mines” crisis. An OSMRE without adequate funding would be a major step back in addressing the problem.

Finally, the coalition letter requests $5 million in funding for the Appalachian Regional Reforestation Initiative to scale up its reforestation and revegetation program on coal mined lands.

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