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An increase in federal funding for cleaning up abandoned mines could boost the economy and employment growth

According to a new report, billions of dollars in funding clearing up abandoned mining areas could boost the Appalachian economy while creating jobs naturally suitable for coal miners.

Last week, the US Senate Energy Committee passed sweeping $ 95 billion bill for energy technologies and infrastructure. To take effect, the bill would have to be passed by the entire Congress. It is part of a broader, non-partisan infrastructure proposal that has started to move in the Senate.

Joe Manchin

“The energy West Virginia has provided has been the backbone of the American economy for decades, and this significant investment will create new jobs and demonstrate the energy technologies needed to reduce emissions while maintaining our country’s position as a global energy leader.” said Senator Joe Manchin, DW.Va., chairman of the committee.

In addition to many provisions, the bill includes US $ 11.2 billion in new funds to clean up abandoned mine land and re-approve the Fund for Abandoned Mine Areas. Annual payouts to West Virginia, Ohio, and Virginia for adjustment would increase 8 to 10 times.

States would have 15 years – until 2036 – to spend the money.

Downstream Strategies, based in Morgantown, assessed the economic impact in Ohio, West Virginia, and Virginia. The study concludes that legislative investment in reclamation and cleaning of abandoned mines will create nearly $ 7 billion in new economic activity and 2,700 jobs in the three Appalachian Mountains

Joey James

“It would provide a vital economic stimulus to the communities hard hit by the coal decline,” said Joey James, director and researcher, Downstream Strategies.

He said the research shows “that it would not only go a long way in solving some of the old mining problems in our communities, it would also provide a vital economic stimulus to communities hit hard by the coal decline.”

West Virginia would create 1,730 jobs and generate an economic output of 4.3 billion US dollars over 15 years, according to the study. Ohio would create 680 jobs and $ 1.8 billion while Virginia would create 300 jobs and $ 790 million.

Angie Rosser

“It’s a huge opportunity, a huge infusion of resources. That way we can offset the job losses and displacement of our coal workers, ”said Angie Rosser, executive director of the West Virginia Rivers Coalition.

But she said big questions still remain to ensure that the most benefit comes from the massive investments.

“How do we prioritize hiring local workers to keep the money in our communities? How do we view the prioritization of our miners for this job who have skills that can be transferred to this type of job? “

James, Rosser, and others attended a livestream briefing with reporters last week about the likely impact of increased state funding for abandoned mining areas.

They stressed that government agencies should start preparing to take on the task as soon as possible.

“This is a jump for her,” she said. “It will be vital to ensure that our government agencies have the support they need to manage the program.”

Earlier this year, the United Mineworkers union published a report on the conservation of coal lands, which contains recommendations for securing livelihoods for people in a time of energy transition.

Under a section titled “Creating New Jobs”, the UMW report recommended that the expected needs for the reclamation of abandoned mine land be fully funded, calling on states to group contracts for reclaiming abandoned mine land and claim applicable wages.

The Abandoned Mine Land Fund was established by Congress in 1977. Since then, the Abandoned Mine Lands program has cleared more than 46,000 open mine portals, reclaimed over 1,000 miles of dangerous high walls, and restored water supplies to coal-basin community residents. It has also protected people from hazards like landslides and floods that result from neglecting damaged land.

Funding for the AML program is slated to expire this year, and new estimates show that more than $ 20 billion in investments will be required to reclaim and restore the remaining decommissioned mines across the country. The newly introduced law authorizes the AML program to be funded for 15 years by extending a fee for the compensation of coal.

“I see it as a strong down payment that helps us catch up,” said Rosser.

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