For Immediate Release
RECLAIM Act’s Passage Through House Committee Gives Hope to Hundreds of Communities Near Abandoned Coal Mines
WASHINGTON - Today, the U.S. House’s Natural Resources Committee strengthened and then passed the RECLAIM Act out of committee - an important step toward the bill’s passage through Congress. The RECLAIM Act commits $1 billion to economic development and diversification projects that clean up abandoned coal mines, while also prioritizing public input and community participation on which projects are chosen and how they are run.
Prior to today’s vote, the bill was missing important language that allowed for input from coal impacted communities striving for more economic opportunities and specific provisions favoring projects that would boost economic development in surrounding areas. However, due to strong grassroots organizing and persistent lobbying from local leaders in these communities, the committee voted today to add the language via an amendment from Representative Don Beyer (D-VA). The “Beyer Amendment” will ensure that economic development and stakeholder collaboration are central to the bill, while also providing states with the flexibility they need to clean up high priority areas. With this amendment secured, the bipartisan RECLAIM Act can now be taken up by the full House of Representatives.
In the wake of energy markets moving away from coal over the past decade, the RECLAIM Act was developed to help communities that have historically depended on the coal industry for jobs, economic stability, and union benefits to rebuild themselves by creating and attracting new, diverse businesses through mine reclamation. Both the House and the Senate introduced versions of the bill at the beginning of 2017 with wide ranging support, and today’s vote in the Natural Resources Committee is the bill’s first movement in either chamber.
In response, Chris Hill, Sierra Club’s Deputy Legislative Director for Clean Energy and Clean Air, released the following statement:
“The House Natural Resources Committee’s passage of a strong RECLAIM Act today will give hope to hundreds of communities living near abandoned coal mining sites that are not only eager to see them cleaned up, but also to see jobs and businesses emerge from the projects the bill will fund.
“The $1 billion in funding from the RECLAIM Act is vital to rebuilding communities that have been most affected by coal’s decline over the past decade and, most importantly, gives communities the opportunity to plot their own economic course that offers multiple employment options.
“RECLAIM is by no means a cure-all, but it represents a real opportunity for self-determination in many coal impacted areas. We’re eagerly awaiting the next steps in the legislative process to make that happen.”
The Sierra Club is the oldest and largest grassroots environmental organization in the United States. It was founded on May 28, 1892 in San Francisco, California by the well-known conservationist and preservationist John Muir, who became its first president. The Sierra Club has hundreds of thousands of members in chapters located throughout the US, and is affiliated with Sierra Club Canada.