Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Bill to aid Appalachian coal communities passes House committee over industry objection

(Lexington Herald-Leader photo)
A bill that would accelerate $1 billion in federal spending to aid struggling coal areas in Appalachia passed a U.S. House committee Tuesday, over the opposition of the National Mining Association.

The RECLAIM Act, which would speed up the release of funds to reclaim abandoned mine lands, is now set to go before the full House, writes Bill Estep of the Lexington Herald-Leader.

"One goal would be to reclaim sites in ways that could boost economic development in places that have seen job losses in recent years," Estep reports. Eastern Kentucky alone has lost half its coal jobs since 2011, he notes.

"This bill represents a real investment in coal country — one that will provide much-needed resources to clean up the environment, create jobs and strengthen these communities from the ground up," Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), who sponsored the bill, said in a release.

The House Natural Resources Committee approved an amendment to the bill that was backed by more than 40 national or regional environmental and citizens' groups, according to Estep. "The groups said in a letter to the committee that the change was needed to make sure spending would give top priority to projects that tie reclamation to long-term economic development," he writes. Sarah Bowling, a member of Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, which backed the amendment, was pleased with the vote. "This is a victory for Appalachia and a big day for Kentucky and those communities suffering from the decline of coal," Bowling said in a news release. 

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