Washington, D.C. - Today the President released his Fiscal Year 2011 budget which included a predicted cut to Wyoming’s nearly $115 million in Abandoned Mine Land (AML) money, depending on the state’s annual coal production.
Governor Dave Freudenthal, U.S. Senators Mike Enzi and John Barrasso and Representative Cynthia Lummis are teaming up to ensure the cut doesn’t make it into Senate and House budgets.
"I'm discouraged by the proposal to cut AML funding for Wyoming. For four decades, Wyoming argued the state's case establishing our right to AML funding. Senator Enzi successfully fought to make that money available to the state, and now that funding is in jeopardy. This is an 'all hands on deck' moment, as these funds help support an array of important initiatives in the state, from innovative research at the University of Wyoming School of Energy Resources to reclamation projects at abandoned mine sites," said Freudenthal.
“We were successful in stopping the AML cut in last year’s Senate and House budgets. The goal remains the same this year. I will fight for Wyoming’s money, regardless of the Administration’s insistence on cutting it,” said Enzi. “This is money that comes from taxes on Wyoming coal that by law are promised back to Wyoming. Deciding to cut it out of the budget is like having a bank manager tell one of its customers they aren’t able to withdraw money from their savings account they’ve been putting money in for 30 years. After years of keeping our money hostage, we finally got some paid back and now they want to steal it again.”
“The AML funding saga plays on like a broken record. This money rightfully belongs to the people of Wyoming. I will continue to fight for our money and remind people in Washington where the money comes from and where it is obligated to go,” said Barrasso.
"Last week, President Obama pledged to ‘freeze’ government spending for three years to make up for the burgeoning federal deficit his policies continue to feed,” Lummis said. “Today we learned how that statement should be translated – the President’s budget request disincentivizes domestic energy production, fails to address bloated entitlement spending, and attempts to make up the difference by taking from States what they are rightfully owed by the federal government. We stopped the Administration from stealing Wyoming’s AML dollars last year. We will do everything in our power to stop this attempted robbery again."
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.
Click here to view President Obama’s budget.