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. (View a summary of the bill)
Releasing funds for mine reclamation is a big piece of the POWER+ Plan, a federal proposal that was introduced by the Administration last spring. In Appalachia, the POWER+ Plan could do a lot to help drive the transition to a more diverse, sustainable, and just economy, and help families who are reeling as the economy here bottoms out.
Over the past six months, a community-led movement to pass the POWER+ Plan has spread like wildfire across the region. Twenty-eight (28) local governments and organizations across Appalachia have passed resolutions supporting the POWER+ Plan.
“I was happy back in August when our county government here in Harlan County passed a resolution in support of POWER+. I’m just as happy now that others are starting to see the potential that we see here for a just transition. It’s been coming a long time. This gives me a lot of hope and optimism for the future,” said Kimberly Shepherd of Harlan County.
The bill will hit 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. As momentum for the POWER+ Plan continues to grow, the hope is to see other legislators from coal areas step up.
The bill would disburse $200 million per year, over five years, to states and tribes for the purpose of implementing mine reclamation projects that create long-term economic opportunities in agriculture, energy, recreational tourism, and more (like the projects featured here).
Let's continue to build on this momentum and see that the RECLAIM Act and the other pillars of the POWER+ Plan, such as legislation to ensure 100,000 retired miners and their families receive the healthcare and pension payments they earned, make it through Congress.
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Here's a roundup of statements, quotes, and news coverage on the announcement of the RECLAIM Act:
- Official announcement from Congressman Hal Rogers
- Statement from Appalachian Citizens' Law Center
- Statement from Kentuckians for the Commonwealth
- Statement from West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy
- Statement from Appalachian Voices
- Statement from MACED
“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.”
“We applaud this historic bipartisan bill by Congressman Evan Jenkins and others to help diversify West Virginia’s economy and help struggling coal communities,” said Ted Boettner, Executive Director of the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy. “The RECLAIM Act is an important and significant step toward building a stronger economy in West Virginia in the wake of the state’s declining coal production.”
“We applaud Congressmen Griffith, Rogers and their colleagues for introducing this forward-thinking legislation,” said Adam Wells, Economic Diversification Campaign Coordinator with Appalachian Voices’ Wise County, Va., office. “More than two dozen local governments have called for federal investment in their communities. Releasing this funding now would support efforts taking place all across Central Appalachia to secure the region’s economic future.”
"In this time of transition in the mountains, it is essential that we take care of our communities, our people, the land on which we live and the water that we drink. We cannot build a better economic future without doing so, and the RECLAIM Act would help us move forward down that path toward a brighter Appalachian future." —MACED statement on the RECLAIM Act