After months of hard work by community advocates from across the country, the “RECLAIM Act” has been introduced in the Senate. The bill would expedite the distribution of $1 billion for mine reclamation and economic diversification in communities struggling with the decline of coal.
The bill’s lead sponsor on the Senate side is Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV). Co-sponsors include four (4) coal state senators: Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA), Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), and Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH).
“It’s very exciting to see action on the RECLAIM Act in the Senate, even at the eleventh hour of this session. We’ve been calling for this legislation for months, and it’s encouraging that this message is being heard by members of Congress,” said Katie Dollarhide, resident of Letcher County, Kentucky.
“I continue to believe that the RECLAIM Act could be start of a new future here. A future where young people in communities like Letcher County can stay and provide for their families doing work that’s meaningful, without being forced to move away as coal declines. This could be one way to create more opportunities, and hope, in our community” said Katie Dollarhide.
The senate version is the counterpart of a bill first introduced in the House by a bipartisan group of legislators led by Congressman Hal Rogers (R-KY). In the House, the bill has steadily gained support throughout 2016 and stands at 27 bipartisan co-sponsors from across 13 states from Pennsylvania to Texas. Congressman Rogers has championed the bill and has said it will be a “top priority” for him in 2017. The RECLAIM Act mirrors an initiative in the White House’s 2015 POWER+ Plan proposal.
For more than a year, communities across Central Appalachia have been calling for the the policy initiative. Twenty-eight (28) local governments and organizations in West Virginia, Kentucky, Virginia, and Tennessee passed resolutions supporting the initiative, and there are nearly 10,000 signatures from across the country demonstrating support for the RECLAIM Act. A poll conducted by Public Opinion Strategies found that there is 89% support for the RECLAIM Act among registered voters in seven (7) impacted states.
“This action around RECLAIM in the Senate demonstrates a lot of momentum for the bill as we head into 2017. Having not made the RECLAIM Act a priority in 2016 despite many Kentuckians calling for the bill, I hope to see Senator McConnell and Senator Paul demonstrate leadership for Kentucky’s coal communities by sponsoring the bill when it is reintroduced in the Senate next year, as fellow Kentuckian Congressman Rogers leads the fight in the House,” said Stephen A. Sanders, Director of Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center.
*Note: the original statement mistakenly asserted there are “five (5)” co-sponsors. There are, in fact, “four (4)” co-sponsors that accompany the lead sponsor Joe Manchin. The statement has been corrected accordingly.