The report released today from the Biden Administration’s Interagency Working Group (IWG) on Coal and Power Plant Communities and Economic Revitalization is an important indication that the administration is committed to investing in the people and places hit hardest by the decline of the coal industry. The report identifies that our service region (Eastern Kentucky, Southern West Virginia, and Southwest Virginia) is the hardest hit.
For years, ACLC and a coalition of organizations across the country have been fighting to increase funding for abandoned mine land clean-up and we are glad to see this issue as a priority in the report. However, going forward we must determine a different source of funding for this important work. Currently, the limited funds available to clean up AML sites come from a fee on coal production. It is critical that we identify a robust, long-term funding solution for AML clean-up. Legislation such as the RECLAIM Act and Reauthorization of the Abandoned Mine Land Fund are important first steps but, as the Biden Administration stated in the American Jobs Plan, we need to allocate billions of dollars to this program, not millions.
We also hope that President Biden will make good on his campaign platform to ensure that miners with black lung disease are not forgotten. These miners sacrificed their lungs and lives to power the nation but an important source of funding for this program is a small tax on coal production. As coal production continues to decline, we encourage the IWG and policy subcommittee to prioritize a solution for this program going forward.
The work to build back our communities that have been devastated by the decline of the coal industry and decades of health and environmental abuses is a monumental task. Many voices from our communities helped shape this first report, and through the report’s promise to host town halls and listening sessions in our communities over the next year, we are hopeful that the efforts of the Administration will continue to be shaped by local workers, advocates, and leaders on its Advisory Committee.