September 29, 2016

Reclaiming Appalachia

A Republican-leaning public opinion research recently released a multi-state coal country survey on attitudes on the RECLAIM Act, a bipartisan piece of legislation that has generated some buzz in the US House. The group, Public Opinion Strategies, found overwhelming support for the Act across the region and across political lines.

Here's some of what the proposed legislation would do:

“A proposal in Congress would release one billion dollars in existing money from the Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund which was collected from coal producers over the last forty years. The proposal, known as the RECLAIM Act, would release this money to affected states to help revitalize coal communities hit hardest by the downturn in the coal industry. Communities could apply for grants to restore abandoned mine lands, invest in economic development projects to put people to work, and tackle infrastructure needs such as ensuring clean drinking water."
This legislation is different from the Miners Protection Act, which has gained traction in the US Senate. That legislation would use AML money to protect promised health care benefits to over 20,000 miners.

The United Mine Workers supports both, but the latter is its top priority and the union has said its support for RECLAIM hinges on passage of the Miners Protection Act first. The AML currently has a budget of $2.5 billion.

I'd like to see both pass, but at this point I'd be glad to see either--and I hope the bills don't kill each other. It is nice that despite political polarization and overheated rhetoric these days, politicians from both major parties have agreed on the need to come to the help of those harmed by the downturn in the coal industry.