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Bipartisan RECLAIM Act Would Boost Rural Economic Growth, Restore Wildlife Habitat

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Economic recovery and habitat restoration are vital to ensuring that coal communities that have served as the nation’s backbone for generations can adapt and thrive in changing times. The bipartisan RECLAIM Act, introduced by Congressman Matt Cartwright (D-Penn.), would recover abandoned coal mine lands for community redevelopment, wildlife habitat and outdoor recreation, while providing good-paying jobs in distressed communities and restoring polluted lands and waters in the process. 

Rep. Cartwright also introduced a companion bill that would reauthorize the underlying Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation Fund through 2036.  The Fund, which requires coal producers to pay fees to clean up the massive legacy of unclaimed mines, was set to expire in 2021.

“We have a responsibility to create good jobs for the workers and communities that have powered our nation for generations as our country deploys cleaner sources of energy,” said Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “The RECLAIM Act is a critical step to revitalize rural economies, create thousands of good jobs, and restore degraded wildlife habitat in Appalachia and beyond — which is an important piece of ensuring an economic future where people and wildlife alike thrive. We thank Rep. Cartwright for leading this effort to secure RECLAIM’s inclusion in the infrastructure package. ”  

“The RECLAIM Act would invest in the rural communities hit hardest by coal decline at a time when they need it most. These communities need jobs, environmental health improvements and new opportunities to grow the outdoor recreational economy — all fronts this legislation would help deliver on,” said Angie Rosser, executive director of West Virginia Rivers Coalition. “Energy transition efforts won’t be successful unless they result in a healthy, prosperous future for everyone.” 

“The RECLAIM Act could create impetus for long-term sustainable change for communities impacted by and dependent on coal mining as they grapple with the transition to cleaner energy and their place in that future," said PennFuture President and CEO Jacquelyn Bonomo. "Restoration of abandoned mine lands will benefit people and landscapes in so many ways — from the jobs and skills needed to do the reclamation, to land that can now support viable use — be it small business ventures, larger development, or for conservation and climate resilience purposes. The time has come for this program to become a reality.”

“The RECLAIM act is a win-win. We can protect and restore the health of our environment while caring for communities hardest hit by the declining coal industry,” said Elliot Brinkman, executive director of Prairie Rivers Network. “Reclamation and redevelopment will provide many communities the opportunity to re-imagine their rural economies while improving the condition of their lands and waters.”

The legislation amends the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 to fund state and tribal projects to promote economic revitalization, diversification and development in economically distressed communities through reclamation and restoration of land and water resources adversely affected by coal mining. It would commit and invest $1 billion over five years in surplus collected abandoned mine land fund fees to create jobs and accelerate clean up. 

 

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