Delegation continues fight for Wyoming AML money
Obama proposes cutting $142 million of Abandoned Mine Land (AML) payments owed to states
by News from Congress: Senator Mike Enzi, Representative Cynthia Lummis, Senator John Barrasso media release
May 7, 2009
(Washington, D.C.) - The Wyoming delegation, Senators Mike Enzi and John Barrasso and Representative Cynthia Lummis, all R-Wyo., reiterated their commitment to ensure that a proposal from President Obama to eliminate all future payments to certified states from the Abandoned Mine Land (AML) fund does not become the law of the land.
The delegation successfully kept the original attempt to cut AML funds out of the Senate and House budgets but today the Obama administration again proposed cutting the $142 million in AML payments owed to certified states like Wyoming when it released the President’s detailed list of proposed budget
"This is the same proposal the President outlined a few months ago and my reaction is the same – I’ll fight it. The President’s proposal suggests breaking a promise to coal mining states and, more importantly, a willingness to change an agreement that provides health care to coal miners who no longer have a company paying for their health care. With the rest of the Wyoming delegation and other coal impacted states, I will work to keep this payment cut from becoming law," said Enzi. "We were successful keeping it out of the Senate and House budgets the first time around and will continue on that same path to ensure Wyoming continues to receive the payments the state is using to clean up abandoned mines and to develop clean energy."
"This is nothing but piracy on the western plains. This money belongs to the people of Wyoming and should already be in Wyoming’s treasury. As Senators, President Obama and Interior Secretary Salazar both supported this agreement," Barrasso said. "I will continue to combat any effort to renege on the deal and rob Wyoming of the millions that belong to us."
"After five months of unprecedented spending, it is no wonder that the President is looking to find some savings in the federal budget," Lummis said. "It is not surprising that President Obama continues to put Wyoming’s AML money in the crosshairs. Fortunately, the President’s attempted raid of Wyoming’s AML dollars cannot come to fruition without congressional action. The people of Wyoming have paid their dues when it comes to these AML payments, and I will fight tooth and nail with Sens. Enzi and Barrasso to make sure we continue to see that money."
In 2006, Senator Enzi, Senator Thomas, Rep. Barbara Cubin and a bi-partisan group of coal state legislators worked to reauthorize the program so that states would receive their promised share of federal dollars. The agreement also accelerated payments to states that have environmental problems and made sure coal miners whose companies no longer exist are still covered for health care. President Obama’s request proposes terminating payments to certified states.
If the President’s proposal becomes legislation, Wyoming could lose money that would come from funds already promised to the state. Wyoming currently paysa tax on each ton of coal produced in the state into the AML fund. That tax was only extended when Congress promised to pay its debt to Wyoming and other states involved in the program. Wyoming received just over $100 million dollars from the AML fund in Fiscal Year 2009.
In 1977, when the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act was passed, a tax was levied against every ton of coal produced to help clean up coal mines that were abandoned before reclamation laws existed. Half of that tax was promised to states, and the other half went to the federal government to run the Abandoned Mine Land program and direct more money to the states with the largest reclamation needs (primarily eastern states like Pennsylvania and West Virginia).
Unfortunately, money that was promised to Wyoming was not sent back to the state, and money that was supposed to do reclamation was not sent to states with reclamation needs. Instead of on-the-ground projects, the money was kept in Washington, D.C., spent on unrelated federal programs or used to make budget numbers look better.