Cheney Introduces Bill To Reauthorize The Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation Fee

The sign at the entrance to US Rep. Liz Cheney's office in the Nation's Capitol. Wyotoday photo by Ernie Over

Wyoming Congresswoman and House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney (R-WY) issued the following statement after introducing, H.R. 2462 “The Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation Fee Reauthorization Act of 2021,” which would reauthorize the collection of the Abandoned Mine Land (AML) fee for seven years and reduce the fee rates by 40%:

“The AML fund plays a key role in ensuring that hazardous coal mining sites that have been abandoned are reclaimed by distributing funds to the sites that are deemed a priority. This bill will allow the AML program to continue while reducing the burden on coal miners, particularly in light of the significant hardships they have faced from the decline in demand for coal. We need to do what we can to ensure our coal industry can continue to provide good paying jobs and contribute to local and state economies.” 

Reps. Bill Johnson (R-OH), Carol Miller (R-WV), and Steve Stivers (R-OH) are original cosponsors of the House bill introduced by Rep. Cheney. Senator John Barrasso introduced an identical bill in the Senate last year.

Upon the introduction of this legislation, Wyoming Mining Association Executive Director Travis Deti issued the following statement:

“The Wyoming Mining Association applauds this effort. Wyoming coal miners continue to pay the lion’s share into the AML fund in very difficult operating conditions. The bill will allow for some much needed relief for coal operators while keeping the fund strong.”

In addition, Rich Nolan, National Mining Association (NMA) president and CEO, also issued the following statement about the legislation: 

“When you consider the years that priority reclamation projects have languished while funds have been siphoned off for purposes not imagined under the scope of the program, there’s no doubt that the AML program is in need of reform. The commonsense actions outlined in this bill to encourage program transparency, accountability and effectiveness, while better reflecting the realities of the market, coupled with President’s recent identification of the cleanup of abandoned mine lands as a priority, can help us chart a path forward to bipartisan partnership in achieving the program’s original purpose.”

Also, Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon issued the following:

“For over three decades, Wyoming has been the leader in US coal production. We are therefore the natural leader to reauthorize the AML process.

Wyoming coal producers currently pay more than 50% of the current fee. It is also the time to make well-reasoned changes in the program.  This bill reauthorizes the process for seven years. This is a reasonable period of time to evaluate the use and effectiveness of the fee and the AML program.

In addition, recognizing what is happening to the coal market, it reduces the fee by 40%. A healthy coal industry means that the nation has a healthy abandoned mine cleanup program. Considering the current balance in the AML Trust Fund, this fee reduction will not hamper historic or current reclamation efforts in AML programs nationwide.”

BACKGROUND:

The text of the bill can be found here.

The authority to collect AML fees expires on September 30, 2021. The Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation Fee Reauthorization Act would reauthorize the collection of the AML fee for seven years, to 2028, and would reduce fee rates across all categories by 40%. This shorter seven-year timeframe, instead of the usual fifteen-year reauthorization, will allow for more frequent opportunities to update and revise the AML program. The fee rate reduction is in correlation to declining coal demand. 

The AML fee is a fee assessed on the production of coal which is collected and deposited and collected into the AML Trust Fund and to be distributed each year to eligible states and tribes to reclaim certain coal mine sites that operated prior to 1977. If Congress does not reauthorize the AML fee collection before that date, the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (SMCRA) directs the remaining balance of the AML Fund to be distributed among uncertified states until the balance runs out. There are 25 states and 3 tribes with AML programs.

The proposed legislation does not reduce or eliminate United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) healthcare or pension benefits.

This legislation is supported by Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon, the Wyoming Mining Association, and the National Mining Association.