Wyoming Republican Gov. Matt Mead is not happy with a new bill that goes along with President Barack Obama’s plan to use coal mining revenues from western states to fund “economic development” projects in states where federal regulations have put thousands of coal miners out of work.
“The legislation is detrimental to Wyoming’s coal industry and the national economy. RECLAIM would shift $1 billion from states where mining and reclamation occurs to non-reclamation economic development activities in states where federal energy policies decimated viable industries,” Mead wrote in a letter to Wyoming’s congressional delegation obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation.
Mead is referring to the Revitalizing the Economy of Coal Communities by Leveraging Local Activities and Investing More, or RECLAIM, Act which shifts $1 billion from abandoned mine reclamation funding in states like Wyoming to economic projects in Appalachian states like Kentucky.
“This legislation is funded through increased fees on the coal industry,” Mead wrote. “This should be rejected.”
The bill, introduced by Kentucky Republican Rep. Hal Rogers, would move $1 billion from the Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund to “revitalize coal communities hardest hit by the downturn of the coal industry,” according to Rogers’ office. Some $200 million would be given to states over five years for economic development projects.
Rogers and a group of bipartisan Appalachian lawmakers have pushed the bill, which mirrors Obama’s so-called Power Plus plan to pump taxpayer dollars into coal communities hard-hit by falling demand for coal and regulations imposed by his own federal agencies.
While the bill has eastern coal states happy, the proposal is not going over well in western coal states where production has weathered onerous regulations. Republicans in those states don’t want to see their coal revenues be redistributed to other states.
“Accepting the Power Plus plan would be total surrender to the heavy attacks President Obama and his administration have launched against coal country and the livelihoods, families, and affordable American energy that depend on it,” Wyoming Rep. Cynthia Lummis told TheDCNF.
Republicans are worried taking money from mine reclamation projects would only mean more taxes on mining and do little to help communities being punished by ever-stricter environmental regulations.
Republicans also point to the fact that a similar pilot project was created in the budget bill passed last year. The omnibus bill created a $90 million pilot program to give mine reclamation funds to hard hit coal towns. Lawmakers argue this program should be allowed to work before more money is diverted away from mine reclamation.
While coal states spar over mine reclamation funds, Republican lawmakers have pushed legislation to repeal Obama administration regulations. Both chambers of Congress passed legislation last year to repeal Obama’s so-called Clean Power Plan (CPP) — a regulatory scheme to limit carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.
Furthermore, 30 states and state agencies successfully convinced the Supreme Court to halt implementation of the CPP last month.
“These families want their coal jobs back,” Lummis said. “We will not roll over and play dead just because the federal government throws a few dollars our way. We will fight to restore these jobs, this industry, this way of life, and continue producing affordable and reliable energy for American families across the country.”
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