Environment

U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers on Wednesday announced a bi-partisan initiative to send $1 billion to coalfields communities.

The RECLAIM Act (which stands for Revitalizing the Economy of Coal Communities by Leveraging Local Activities and Investing More), is co-sponsored by Rogers and a bipartisan group of coalfields congressmen. The bill would send a billion dollars from the federal Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund to help spur economic development in communities hurting from the downturn in the coal industry.

Rogers, a Republican, represents much of Eastern Kentucky in the House.

“In Kentucky alone, we’ve lost more than 11,000 coal mining jobs since 2009. Instead of allowing those funds to go unused, now is the time to help our coal producing states reinvest in the coalfields with projects that can create new jobs and reinvigorate our economy,” Rogers said in a statement.

“Many coal communities in Appalachia simply do not have the resources to reclaim the abandoned mine sites within their borders. This bill allows these communities to be proactive in restoring these sites and utilize them to put our people back to work.”

If the bill becomes law, $200 million would go to participating states over the next five years. The money will be used to clean up abandoned mine sites, as well as identify and fund economic development projects on the sites.

The bill was applauded by non-profit Appalachian Voices, which has been pushing for economic development funding for the region.

“We applaud Congressmen Griffith, Rogers and their colleagues for introducing this forward-thinking legislation,” said Appalachian Voices’ Adam Wells in a statement. “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.”

This funding will add to money already coming to the region through the appropriations bill Congress passed late last year. Rogers chairs the powerful House Appropriations Committee.

Erica Peterson reports on energy and the environment for WFPL. She is also Enterprise Editor.