Washington, D.C. – As the President prepares his budget priorities for the year, U.S. Senators Mike Enzi and John Barrasso, both R-Wyo., are teaming up with fellow Western senators to ensure money promised to coal producing states isn’t on the chopping block.
“Every year when money is tight the Administration comes after Wyoming’s money to try and fill in the blanks of their budget and pay for programs. Every year I vow to fight the AML money grab and this year is no different,” said Enzi.
“Wyoming’s rightfully promised AML money should not be used to fund Washington’s spending spree. Instead of raiding our AML money, the Administration needs to make tough decisions to eliminate wasteful spending,” Barrasso said.
Six senators sent a bi-partisan letter to the President today asking him to ensure future payments to certified states from the Abandoned Mine Land (AML) are not cut in the budget the Administration is expected to send to Congress in the coming weeks. Senators who signed the letter were Enzi, Barrasso, Max Baucus, D-Mont., Jon Tester, D-Mont., Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., and Tom Udall, D-N.M.
Last year Enzi, Barrasso and Representative Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., successfully kept the President’s proposed cut to AML funds out of the Senate and House budgets and Wyoming received approximately $117 million. This year, the letter was sent in an effort to persuade the President from making the proposal in his upcoming budget.
In 1977, when the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act was passed, a tax was levied against every ton of coal produced to help clean up coal mines that were abandoned before reclamation laws existed. Half of that tax was promised to states, and the other half went to the federal government to run the Abandoned Mine Land program and direct more money to the states with the largest reclamation needs (primarily eastern states like Pennsylvania and West Virginia).
Unfortunately, money that was promised to Wyoming was not sent back to the state, and money that was supposed to do reclamation was not sent to states with reclamation needs. Instead of on-the-ground projects, the money was kept in Washington, DC, spent on unrelated federal programs or used to make budget numbers look better.
In 2006, Enzi, Senator Craig Thomas, Rep. Barbara Cubin and a bipartisan group of coal state legislators worked to reauthorize the program so that states would receive their promised share of federal dollars. President Obama’s budget proposes terminating those payments.