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MACED President Peter Hille's Statement on the RECLAIM Act

 

February 4, 2016

 

As the coal industry continues its precipitous decline in eastern Kentucky, our communities are suffering in the wake of the industry's collapse. Jobs are increasingly scarce and local governments are losing crucial revenue as coal severance taxes decline.

 

Congressman Hal Rogers made a bold move this week by filing the RECLAIM Act, which would release $1 billion in available Abandoned Mine Lands (AML) funds for land remediation and reforestation of formerly mined lands. His co-sponsors include Representatives from both sides of the aisle and across the Appalachian coalfields.

 

The RECLAIM Act mirrors a key element of President Obama's POWER+ Plan for coal-impacted communities. Introduced in 2014, POWER+ has received support from city and county governments and grassroots organizations across Central Appalachia. However, RECLAIM goes a step further in allowing funding to be spent on land adjacent to formerly mined lands. The Secretary of the Interior will distribute $200 million a year from 2017-2021 for projects that will stimulate economic development in these communities.

 

We know that in order to bring a just economic transition to Central Appalachia, the environmental legacy costs of coal mining must be addressed. We also know that in addressing them, we can provide new economic opportunities to our people. That's why we fully support the RECLAIM Act. Not only will it create jobs that will help to revitalize communities, it will also help to reverse adverse affects of decades of surface mining, serving to improve the quality of the region's land and water, which will lead to improved public health. These significant federal investments represent an acknowledgement of the contribution our region's people have made to the development of this nation, and the burden they bear as the economy shifts away from coal. This understanding lies at the heart of the concept of just transition to a new, post-coal economy.

 

In this time of transition in the mountains, it is essential that we take care of our communities, our people, the land on which we live and the water that we drink. We cannot build a better economic future without doing so, and the RECLAIM Act would help us move forward down that path toward a brighter Appalachian future.