Today, a bipartisan group of Congressmen re-introduced the RECLAIM Act in the U.S. House, a landmark bill that could bring significant change to former coal communities all over the country — but more notably, could encourage economic growth right here at home in Colorado. Joined by Congressman Don Beyer (D-VA) and Congressman Glenn Thompson (R-PA), Congressman Matt Cartwright (D-PA) and Congressman Hal Rogers (R-KY) led the introduction of the "Revitalizing the Economy of Coal Communities by Leveraging Local Activities and Investing More Act of 2019," more commonly known as the "RECLAIM Act of 2019."
The RECLAIM Act represents a powerful step toward the revitalization of communities hit hardest by the coal industry's downturn, said Steve Allerton, President of the Western Colorado Alliance for Community Action. "In Colorado alone, we have 76 million dollars’ worth of coal reclamation work that could put coal miners back to work and provide a means of healing our environment. This makes perfect sense for Western Colorado communities that have been hard hit by the decline in coal markets."
Rick Baer, a former member and organizer in the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, also lauded the RECLAIM Act: "The environmental and economic impact of the Reclaim Act is huge. Not only is it a big boost to cleaning up the environmental damage that is a result of mining, but it also puts the hard-working miners displaced by the crumbling coal market back to work at jobs in their communities. These workers and their families have suffered from the weakened coal market. The communities with traditional jobs in coal production have also felt the brunt of these layoffs."
The RECLAIM Act would commit $1 billion dollars over five years from an existing abandoned mine fund to projects that clean up abandoned coal mines and spur economic development and diversification. If passed by Congress, the RECLAIM Act will clean up the environment while bringing jobs and economic development to places that need it most — all without using a dime of taxpayer money.
According to the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, Colorado still has roughly $76 million of coal reclamation work that remains to be done. Under RECLAIM, our state would be eligible to receive up to $45 million dollars in project funding over those five years. That's $30 million more than Colorado currently receives under existing federal funding, and an incredible mechanism to put Coloradans in places that have borne the burden of the coal decline.
Abandoned coal mines are not only an eastern or a western issue. It's important to have legislation crafted to provide economic stimulus in all regions where coal left a mark. The RECLAIM Act won't solve all of our state's economic issues, but it is a major step in the right direction, and an important opportunity to clean up our outdoors and begin diversifying local economies in communities like Nucla and Hotchkiss.
Allerton concluded by calling upon Colorado's Congressional delegation, especially Representative Scott Tipton, to support the bill. "This is a widely supported piece of bipartisan legislation that is a win-win for communities, land, and water. We will be reaching out to all of Colorado's Representatives and Senators in the coming year requesting their support for the RECLAIM Act and to help move it through Congress."