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Manchin pushing to restore coal communities

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Thursday, U.S. Senators Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Bob Casey, D-Pa.,, Tim Kaine, D-Va., and Mark Warner, D-Va., introduced the Abandoned Mine Land (AML) Reclamation Fee Extension Act of 2021 and the Revitalizing the Economy of Coal Communities by Leveraging Local Activities and Investing More (RECLAIM) Act of 2021.

The AML Reclamation Fee Extension Act would provide a clean 15 year extension of the fee levied on coal companies that funds the AML Reclamation Program, which is currently set to expire this September. The RECLAIM Act would provide a boost for coal reclamation projects that provide economic development and growth in communities impacted by the downturn in the coal industry.

“For generations, West Virginia coal miners have made tremendous sacrifices and done the heavy lifting that powered our nation to greatness. Both the RECLAIM Act and the Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation Fee Extension Act are much needed investments in coal communities. The RECLAIM Act will support struggling coal communities as they diversity their economies,” said Manchin. “The AML Reclamation Fee Extension Act ensures communities are able to reclaim damaged land and water which is essential to creating safer and more inhabitable coal communities. I am proud to reintroduce both these bills which would ensure our hardworking coal communities are able to thrive once again.”

“Ohio coal communities helped build and power this country and they deserve our respect and attention,” said Brown. “This investment would provide a down payment toward creating new jobs, protecting our waters, and giving local communities across Appalachia the financial tools they need to grow.”

“As we move toward an economy powered by clean energy, we must remember the coal mining communities that have worked hard to power our nation for decades, often at great risk to themselves. These two critical bills would streamline the release of $1 billion from the Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund, help diversify the economies of coal communities, and provide cleaner air, land, and water in and around reclaimed mine land,” said Kaine.

“Our Appalachian communities have a long legacy of coal mining. As we continue our economic recovery following the COVID-19 crisis, we’ve got to reiterate our commitment to not leaving these communities behind,” said Warner. “That’s why I’m pleased to be joining my colleagues on these efforts that will speed the release of significant funding to help repair the environmental damage caused by abandoned mines, fast-track investments to create new economic opportunities in these areas, and improve the health and safety of Virginia’s coal mining communities.”

“For far too long, coal mining communities, like those in Western Pennsylvania, have gone without significant economic and environmental investment,” Casey said. “According to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, the Commonwealth accounts for one-third of the country’s abandoned mine lands. It’s time for Congressional Republicans to stop talking about their support for coal mining communities and start voting for legislation that will help clean up abandoned mine sites, spur economic and job growth, and create a cleaner environment for the people and businesses in these communities.”

“The economic situation for many families and communities in the Appalachian coalfields is already catastrophic. Things will not get better by themselves. Congress needs to act this year to pass the RECLAIM Act and the Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation Fee Extension Act, as well as other initiatives to provide job, training and further assistance to dislocated coal miners and their families,” said Cecil Roberts, President, United Mine Workers of America.

“We have a responsibility to ensure that the communities across Appalachia that have powered our nation for generations are not left behind as our nation transitions to net-zero emissions,” said Collin O’Mara, President and CEO, National Wildlife Federation. “We applaud Senator Manchin’s leadership in revitalizing local economies in coal country, creating good union jobs, and restoring degraded wildlife habitat by advancing the RECLAIM Act and reauthorizing the Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation Fund.

“Furthering the clean-up of abandoned mine lands is an opportunity to prevent disasters and create jobs in places hit hardest by coal’s decline. These measures couldn’t come at a more important time for our communities. We applaud Senator Manchin for acting to restore our damaged lands and waters as a way to ensure national investment strategies emphasize the economic revitalization of coal country,” said Angie Rosser, Executive Director, West Virginia Rivers Coalition.

“The RECLAIM Act and Reauthorization of the Abandoned Mine Land Fund are vitally important to support Appalachian coal mining communities and boost local economic development efforts at this critical time,” said Chelsea Barnes, Legislative Director, Appalachian Voices. “We appreciate the senators’ work on this and we urge Congress to take these meaningful steps to create thousands of jobs in the communities that have powered our nation for more than a century.”

“Senator Manchin’s bill to renew the Abandoned Mine Land Fund for 15 years is vitally important for jobs, especially for Appalachia as 84% of the $20 Billion of abandoned mines and polluted streams are located in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, Virginia, and Alabama and I commend Senator Manchin because his bill to renew the AML Fund complements President Biden’s American Jobs Plan, which includes $16 Billion for reclamation of abandoned coal mines and for plugging oil and gas wells,” said Joe Pizarchik, former Director, Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement. “We should all also support passage of the RECLAIM Act that Senator Manchin reintroduced today because it will speed up delivery of $1 Billion to states to create reclamation jobs and foster economic revitalization in coal country.”

“Senator Manchin is a long-time leader in helping to clean up abandoned mines in West Virginia, and across Appalachia. As a hunter and angler, he well understands the connection between healthy lands, clean water, improved hunting and fishing, and economic opportunities in rural communities across America. Passage of these bills will help us to care for and recover the lands and waters that sustain our great nation,” said Chris Wood, President and CEO, Trout Unlimited.

United Mine Workers of America, Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center, Appalachian Voices, Kentucky Interfaith Power & Light, Mountain Association, National Wildlife Federation, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, PennFuture, Powder River Basin Resource Council, West Virginia Rivers Coalition, Keystone Research Center, Friends For Environmental Justice, The Alliance for Appalachia, West Virginia Interfaith Power and Light, Sierra Club, Central Illinois Healthy Community Alliance, Center for Coalfield Justice, Trout Unlimited, and Kentucky Resources Council, Inc. are among the broad coalition of organizations that have endorsed the legislation introduced Thursday.

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