Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), ranking member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, delivered remarks at a full committee hearing to examine the implementation of federal coal mine land reclamation and abandoned coal mine land economic revitalization programs.
“The Abandoned Mine Land (AML) Program plays a vital role in supporting the reclamation of former coal mine sites in my home state of Wyoming and of course across the country,” Barrasso said. “The program targets the most environmentally hazardous coal mine sites in our nation and communities depend on this program working efficiently to address threats to public safety.
Coal producers in Wyoming are among the largest set of contributors to the Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund. “In fiscal year 2022, Wyoming contributed $54.9 million to the Fund,” Barrasso said. “This is nearly 60% of all the money received last year.”
Most of the fees collected on coal production in Wyoming go to other states with reclamation needs, Barrasso explained. “In other words, Wyoming’s coal production is essential to reclamation activities all across America,” he said. “Despite this fact, the Biden administration has worked tirelessly to kill coal production in Wyoming. It has blocked new coal leases. It has consistently moved the goal posts for lease modification requests. It has slow-walked permits. This strategy will only make it more difficult to reclaim the sites that we all agree need to be cleaned up.
“Instead of killing coal production, Chairman Manchin and I worked to put the AML Program on a sustainable path,” Barrasso said. “In 2021, Congress modernized the program by reducing the fees on coal producers and authorizing the reduced fee for 13 years. We provided relief to coal producers so that they can continue mining coal and funding the program.
“In recent years, Congress has made additional changes to the AML Program,” Barrasso said. “We provided additional resources to address unfunded reclamation needs that total more than $9 billion. And, we provided flexibility to states to determine how best to spend reclamation dollars.
Since Congress took action, however, the Biden administration has imposed new hurdles on states implementing the AML program, despite the fact that states have more than 40 years of experience carrying out the program.
“The new requirements that the Department of the Interior is placing on states is going to take their attention away from the important work of mine reclamation,” Barrasso said. “For example, the Department is now requiring states to assess the economic impacts of a reclamation project and the potential greenhouse gas emissions.
“While these may be interesting data points, they have nothing to do with the mission of the program, which is to reclaim abandoned mines.
“Instead, the Department is going to force states to hire outside experts and consultants and spend more time on unnecessary paperwork,” Barrasso said. “This is a complete waste of time and tax payer dollars. The Biden administration shouldn’t twist it into another bureaucratic boondoggle in the name of climate change or so-called environmental justice. The Department needs to get out of the way and let states get busy reclaiming abandoned sites.”