A provision secured by Wyoming’s Congressional delegation as part of a long-term surface transportation spending bill will force the federal government to fully return past and future abandoned mine land (AML) payments owed to the state. Under the agreement championed for years by U.S. Senators Mike Enzi and John Barrasso, and U.S. Representative Cynthia Lummis, Wyoming is now eligible to receive approximately $241.9 million immediately, and approximately $350 million in future years.
The bill passed the U.S. House and Senate late Thursday and is expected to be signed into law by the president. The provision will restore the full amount of AML funding for all certified states, including Wyoming, and Indian tribes. Additionally, it eliminates the $15 million yearly cap previously imposed.
“This is about returning money that rightfully belongs to the people of Wyoming that was raided in the 2012 highway bill,” Enzi said. “Trust funds such as AML set aside money for a specific reason and should not be poached by politicians. It’s money from Wyoming for Wyoming. This provision is the culmination of three years of work by this delegation to properly restore AML funds to Wyoming, and I sincerely thank John and Cynthia for their efforts.”
Barrasso, who served on the House-Senate Conference Committee that helped negotiate final details of the highway measure said, “It came down to a matter of fairness to return what was wrongfully taken from Wyoming years ago. The delegation was relentless and after a long stubborn fight, the federal government will be forced to stand by their commitments to the people of Wyoming. With energy revenues on the decline, it’s even more important now that Wyoming receives the money Washington owes us,” Barrasso said.
“This Abandoned Mine Land money has always rightfully belonged to Wyoming, despite Senate Democrats’ middle-of-the-night provision in the last multi-year highway bill that stripped this money from Wyoming,” said Rep. Lummis. “I am very proud and very pleased that our hard fought battle has won this victory for Wyoming. Righting this wrong could not have come at a better time, especially with the drop in revenues from coal, oil, and gas. I thank and congratulate Senator Enzi and Senator Barrasso. This was a team effort and I couldn’t be happier: a full restoration of the AML monies legally owed to Wyoming.”
Since 1977, federal law requires coal operators to pay a fee on each ton of coal into the Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund. Annually, half of the funds were to be returned to the state from which they were collected to be used for such purposes as mine reclamation and restoration of land and water resources affected by coal mining. In 2012, a provision was added to a transportation bill to limit funds paid to each state to $15 million annually, shorting states like Wyoming by hundreds of millions of dollars.
The House of Representatives voted 359 to 65 and the Senate voted 83 to 16 to approve the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, the bill that includes the AML provision.