Proposed Federal Legislation Would Reduce Reclamation Fee and Ensure Abandoned Mine Reclamation

Wyoming Republican Rep. Liz Cheney has introduced legislation to lower the fees coal companies are paying to reclaim abandoned mine lands. H.R. 2462, authored by Cheney, would reduce the current AML fees by 40%. The fees mine operators pay for each ton of coal produced vary: 28 cents at surface mines, 12 cents at underground mines and 8 cents for lignite.

Cheney’s bill is the second such measure to be introduced into the House. Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.), introduced H.R. 1734 earlier in this cycle which would reauthorize the fee at the current levels until 2036. However, Cheney’s legislation, which she introduced with Reps. Carol Miller (R-W.Va.) and Bill Johnson (R-Ohio), would reauthorize it until 2028 at lower rates.

Pushing back against Cartwright’s bill, Cheney claimed that reauthorizing the fee at current rates will hurt the coal mining industry which has entered into a steep decline in the last decade.

The Cheney bill is expected to intensify debate over the AML fund which currently holds just $2.2 billion in unappropriated funds. Meanwhile, a report recently released by the nonprofit Ohio River Valley Institute estimates that about $21 billion of reclamation remains to be done, principally in Appalachia

Additionally, the Cheney’s bill would also require the Department of the Interior to study ways to cut costs related to reclamation and maintaining the fund for abandoned mines.

Rich Nolan, president of industry group the National Mining Association, lauded the Cheney bill in a statement and criticized the way the funds in the past have paid for administrative costs. “The commonsense actions outlined in this bill … encourage program transparency, accountability and effectiveness, while better reflecting the realities of the market,” Nolan said.

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