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Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Craig Thomas and Mike Enzi, and Rep. Barbara Cubin, all R-Wyo., today emphasized their resolve to ensure that the state of Wyoming receives its lawful share of the Abandoned Land Mine (AML) funds. The Delegation has been working to secure changes prior to the reauthorization of AML which is set to expire in September of 2004, and have all just met with the Director of the Office of Surface Mining, Jeff Jarrett to discuss a solution.

In 1977, the federal government established the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA), which created the Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund. The fund is financed by a tax of 35 cents per ton on surface mined coal, 15 cents per ton on underground mined coal, and 10 cents per ton on lignite.

“Last year, Wyoming’s share of AML funds was more than $60 million. The state was only paid $28 million. The program is not working as it was intended and things need to be changed. The fact that this is up for reauthorization presents an opportunity to ensure that states who are owed money get their fair share,” the Wyoming Delegation said.

The law authorizes 50 percent of the AML tax to be placed in the federal treasury, and 50 percent to be returned to the contributing states. State distributions are subject to annual appropriations. However, year after year, Congressional appropriators and the Administration have failed to meet their obligation to return the full amount owed to the states.

The money is to be used to clean up old, abandoned mine sites and reclaim the land. AML may also be utilized by communities who have been impacted by mining operations. However, some members of Congress have been redirecting AML funds for their own legislative priorities.

“In total, 26 states and tribes are owed $981 million from the AML account. As the largest coal producing state in the nation, Wyoming companies contribute a significant amount to the AML coffers. Recently released figures from the Office of Surface Mining indicate that Wyoming is owed nearly $371 million, which represents more than one-third of the outstanding federal government obligation. This is unacceptable.

“We have been actively engaged in resolving the problems with the AML, and we will continue to work with the Administration during reauthorization to find a solution that is fair to Wyoming,” the Delegation concluded.