This compares with a $150 million disbursement received last year. At the time, Wyoming was the only state to receive the then maximum allotment.
However, going forward, the AML program will provide only $150 million to Wyoming over the next 10 years, said Alan Edwards, administrator of the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality’s AML Division. Congress reduced AML funding in September when it passed a one-sentence amendment to a transportation bill limiting every state’s annual allotment to a $15 million maximum.
“It’s one sentence,” Edwards told the Infrastructure Authority board of directors and other industry representatives at a board meeting in Teton Village, Wyo. “But it has very far-reaching implications.” As reported in the Casper Star-Tribune, the state will lose $718 million in projected AML funding over the next decade, representing about an 83% cut in funding. However, with over $420 million in planned projects yet to receive funding, Edwards said that there isn’t enough money left to do it all.
Historically, the AML program, which has been in effect since 1977, has provided more funding for Wyoming than for any other state. Funded by a severance tax levied on coal producers, the federal government had been keeping half the revenue to run the program and awarding the other half back to the state. Since Wyoming overtook eastern states to become the nation’s largest coal producer, it has received the most funding. Edwards said the coal producers in the state have contributed $2.9 billion to the program since 1977, or about 35% of all the severance funds collected nationwide.
The AML program was created by Congress to finance cleanup efforts at mining sites around the country. And during much of that time, Wyoming’s funding has been used to reclaim coal, uranium, silver and copper mines. In total, the state has cleaned up about 24,000 acres over those 35 years.
The unfairness of the recent decision is only acerbated by the rapid decline of some eastern producers while Wyoming’s production has fallen less severely. According to the Star-Tribune, Wyoming producers paid $137 million last year, about 52% of the national total and the state was the only one to receive more than $15 million. This year however, despite continuing to generate the largest amount of AML revenue, Wyoming will only be eligible to receive the same maximum share as every other participating state.