Coal Tattoo

Obama budget brings back AML reform proposal


As I’m going through the Obama administration’s proposed budget for the Department of Interior for the 2011 financial year, another thing jumped out at me …

Interior’s Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement  is coming back again with its recommendation to stop sending money for abandoned coal-mine cleanups to states that have already cleaned up all their abandoned coal mines.

We’ve written about this before, about this time last year, when President Obama first floated the idea. See previous links here, here, here and here.

Among the items listed in Interior’s budget:

Terminating payments to coal-producing states and tribes that no longer need funds to clean up abandoned coal mines.

But this year’s proposal is a little different, in that it proposes to set aside $10 million per year to address high-priority coal problems that may develop after states or tribes become certified and for any remaining federal projects.

For those who have forgotten, the issue here is that a few states — most importantly, Wyoming, the nation’s largest coal producer — have “certified” that all of their pre-1977 abandoned surface mines have been properly reclaimed. Budget under current law, they continue to receive millions of dollars in money intended to clean up coal-mine messes. For more, check out this story from my Abandoned Promises series on the AML program. This story is worth a read as well.

Last year, this proposal went nowhere after it got significant opposition from Wyoming lawmakers. It would be interested to see what happened if Sen. Robert C. Byrd or Rep. Nick J. Rahall decided to champion the idea.