Wyoming & Montana senators to feds: ‘enough is enough’
Introduce legislation to fix AML process
by Senator Enzi’s office
December 11, 2007
(Washington, D.C.) - Less than a week after hearing that the agency in charge of distributing Abandoned Mine Land (AML) funds plans to do so using a grant process, Wyoming and Montana senators put forth legislation to re-iterate congressional intent that AML money should be given to states with no strings attached. Period.
U.S. Senator Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., introduced the bill with Senators Max Baucus, Jon Tester, both D-Mont., and John Barrasso, R-Wyo. The language would set the record straight once and for all with the Office of Surface Mining (OSM).
“Only in the absurd world that is Washington could an agency believe that the word ‘payment’ means grant. When this bill passes, the confusion should be over and Wyoming will once and for all wash its hands of the bureaucratic shenanigans that have surrounded these funds,” said Enzi.
Baucus, who as incoming Finance Committee Chairman included the AML funding increase in end-of-the-year tax legislation in 2006, said the new legislation will “slice through the bureaucratic roadblock.”
“It’s baffling to me that these hurdles have been erected,” Baucus said. “Our intention was clear – that Montana and Wyoming were to receive the abandoned mines funding we are entitled to. It’s unfortunate that we must force these agencies to do the right thing. But that’s what we’re going to do.”
“Montana shouldn’t have to jump through hoops to collect our money from the Federal Government. Right now the Feds are like that friend you lent twenty bucks to three months ago and every time you ask for it they have another excuse. Our legislation is going to fix that and it’s going to get Montana the $58 million we’re owed,” said Tester.
“The recent actions by OSM have been nothing short of an insult to the people of the state of Wyoming,” Barrasso said. “The $580 million in AML funds belong to Wyoming. This bill will prevent faceless bureaucrats from hijacking Wyoming’s money.”
The language of the bill states ‘all payments of this subsection to a certified State or Indian tribe shall be distributed as direct transfers of funds rather than in the form of grants’.
To ensure that no confusion exists this time as to what congress intended, senators met with officials at the Department of Interior to ask the lawyers and bureaucrats who misinterpreted the law to provide legislative language that would make it explicitly clear how Congress intends the payment to be distributed.
The senators are working with their Senate colleagues to find the best avenue to pass the bill before the end of the year.
See the link below for a copy of the bill text.