Coal Tattoo

Today’s a big day in Washington, with the unveiling of President Obama’s proposed budget for the 2012 federal financial year that begins Oct. 1. Agencies and reporters will be scrambling around to a series of briefings discussing what the president has proposed for the various agencies.

I’ll be looking over budgets for agencies that deal most directly with the coal industry, starting with the Interior Department’s Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement.

The administration’s budget summary for Interior outlines a proposed 10 percent cut in the OSMRE budget, from $163 million to $146 million. A more detailed budget document, called the appendix, explains that Obama is proposing to cut OSMRE spending on regulatory matters from $127 million to $118 million and spending on abandoned mine cleanups from $36 million to $27 million.

At the same time, the administration is again proposing a more targeted approach to spending on the Abandoned Mine Land, or AML, program.

We’ve talked about this proposal in past years when it was proposed as part of the Obama budget.  The idea is to stop sending coal production taxes intended for AML cleanups to western states — primarily Wyoming — that have certified that they’ve already cleaned up their abandoned coal mines.

The Interior Department describes the proposal this way:

For abandoned coal mines, DOI currently charges industry an abandoned mine land (AML) fee and allocates receipts to states based on production, rather than on reclamation needs. The Administration proposes to target these coal AML fee receipts at the most hazardous sites through a new competitive allocation process with State participation.