Aug 30, 2015

Appalachian communities ask Republican leaders to support Obama's $1B economic aid for coalfields [feedly]

Appalachian communities ask For support Obama's $1B economic aid for coalfields
A greater number of struggling Appalachian coal communities are asking Congressional Republicans who normally oppose Obama administration legislation to get behind the president's Power + Plan to spend $1 billion over five years in an effort to help areas hurt by a sharp downturn in coal jobs, Valerie Volcovici reports for Reuters. "Nearly a dozen Appalachian coal mining communities have passed resolutions over the past few weeks supporting" the plan. Local officials "have called on their Washington representatives to back the proposal that would provide public funds for new economic activities around reclaimed coal mines in the Appalachian Mountains." (Appalachian Coalfields map)

Eric Dixon, policy coordinator for the Appalachian Citizens' Law Center in Whitesburg, Ky., told Volcovici, "This isn't a partisan issue here. We have Republicans and Democrats in the mountains who support this plan."

The problem is that Washington Republican lawmakers—such as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Rep. Hal Rogers, a Republican who represents Eastern Kentucky—have been reluctant to support any coal-related plan initiated by Obama, Volcovici writes. "They contend that the administration's energy policies, including regulations forcing power plants to reduce carbon emissions tied to burning coal, have caused a contraction in the industry that has seen some of the country's biggest coal companies go into bankruptcy."

"Funding for the Power + plan would come from the government's Abandoned Mine Lands (AML) program, which has nearly $2.5 billion in unused funds from fees on coal companies," Volcovici writes. "AML funds are allocated to states to clean up mines. The Obama administration wants to tap $1 billion of that money for states to use for economic redevelopment projects at old mine sites. The money is currently intended to be distributed after 2021."

"The prospect of getting an injection of cash that can be used for programs ranging from agriculture to tourism resonates on the ground in Appalachia, where another half-dozen coal communities plan to vote in the coming weeks on similar resolutions demanding that Congress agree to Power +," Volcovici writes