A bipartisan group of legislators headed by Congressman Hal Rogers announced today that they are introducing the “RECLAIM Act.” The bill would release $1 billion to put people to work reclaiming abandoned mines and create economic opportunities in communities struggling with the decline of the coal industry.
The RECLAIM Act will reach the House floor with bipartisan support from across Appalachia. Matt Cartwright (D-PA), Evan Jenkins (R-WV), Don Beyer (D-VA), and Morgan Griffith (R-VA) are all original co-sponsors of the bill.
The bill would disburse $200 million per year, over five years, to states and tribes for the purpose of developing mine reclamation projects that create long-term economic opportunities in agriculture, energy, recreational tourism, and more.
The RECLAIM Act represents one pillar of the proposed federal Power+ Plan. Over the past six months, a community-led movement to pass the POWER+ Plan has emerged across the region. Twenty-eight (28) local governments and organizations across Appalachia have passed resolutions supporting the POWER+ Plan. Half of those resolutions were passed by representative bodies in Congressman Rogers’s Fifth Congressional District.
“Communities across East Kentucky have spoken, and today’s introduction of the RECLAIM Act signifies that Congressman Rogers has heard them,” said Eric Dixon of Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center. “I am excited that Congressman Rogers not only supports the bill but has gone a step further and is sponsoring it himself, and I am proud that Kentucky is leading this effort. I hope to see the rest of Kentucky’s congressional delegation step up.”
“People in Eastern Kentucky are in the depths of a difficult economic transition. This bill supports the broader effort to create a strong, just economy on the other side of that transition,” said Steve Sanders, Director of Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center. “A 2015 report released by ACLC estimates that releasing this money could create more than 3,000 reclamation jobs across the country–jobs that could put laid off miners, who have the right skills for reclamation, to work.”
Attorney Evan Smith of Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center says, “Coalfield communities deserve the AML money that has been sitting in Washington D.C. for decades. The RECLAIM Act offers a workable way to return jobs to Appalachia and empower these communities to imagine new economic opportunities. Congressman Rogers and the White House have demonstrated meaningful leadership in introducing this bill, and I look forward to seeing our congressional delegation find a way to make the other pieces of the POWER+ Plan, including the Miners Protection Act, a reality.”
Visit powerplusplan.org for more information on the community effort to pass the POWER+ Plan and to show your support for the Plan.
Eric Dixon, Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center