Environment

Kentucky regulators are looking for proposals to spur economic development on Appalachia’s abandoned surface mines.

Two state cabinets — the Cabinet of Economic Development and the Energy and Environment Cabinet — announced the pilot program Monday. It’s funded by the massive spending bill passed by Congress last year that sent $90 million to Abandoned Mine Lands programs in the region. Kentucky’s share of that money is $30 million.

The bill’s language requires the money to go toward projects that reclaim abandoned mine lands and create economic and community development. Additional money was included in President Obama’s “Power+ Plan”— a part of his Fiscal Year 2016 budget that addresses economic development in the nation’s coalfields. Obama’s budget hasn’t seen any movement in Congress.

With the $30 million available to Kentucky through the spending bill, state officials say they’re looking for projects that would bring long-term, dramatic growth to Appalachia. State and local governments are the only eligible grant recipients, and projects must be in one of the 54 counties that are in Eastern or Southeastern Kentucky.

“This pilot program is a tremendous opportunity for leaders in our Appalachian counties,” Gov. Matt Bevin said in a news release. “We must identify projects with real potential for long term success. If used wisely, these funds will improve lives and strengthen the economy in the region for generations to come. These funds will be vital to attracting more jobs and creating more opportunities for the people of Appalachia, while also solving the problem of abandoned mine lands. The potential of this program is enormous, and we must make the best use of these one-time funds.”

Applications for project funding can be found here.