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Senator McConnell’s Not-So-Skinny Relief Package For Coal and Mining Special Interests Failed For A Reason

HELENA, Montana - After Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell carved out upwards of $184 million for coal and coal byproduct development in his ‘skinny’ relief package that would have potentially flowed into his home state of Kentucky, Accountable.US released details on the special interest funding that was included in the package—as well as an additional research that shows the legislation would have been a boon for uranium mining and other mining special interests.   

“The Senate’s relief bill was rightfully rejected because it turned out to be not-so-skinny after all for coal and mining special interests and was just another corporate taxpayer money grab while workers, small businesses, and state and local governments were largely ignored,” said Accountable.US spokesperson Jayson O’Neill. “This package was a pork barrel special interest boon that Senator Majority Leader McConnell tried to ram through under false pretenses. Congress needs to put forth a serious relief bill immediately—one that actually puts American workers and their families ahead of corporate profits.” 
 
Accountable.US previously highlighted some of the worst previsions of the Senate package, including blanket corporate immunity, an extension of the flawed Paycheck Protection Program, and hanging public schools out to dry.   
 
But the package specifically included handouts for coal and mining special interests. The Department of the Interior, led by former extractive resource lobbyist David Bernhardt, would have obtained $450 million in additional funding to assist mining corporations develop ‘critical minerals’ on public lands. Trump’s Interior Department controversially included uranium on its list of non-energy critical minerals that has raised alarms about the future of public land protections around the Grand Canyonand recently proposed dropping already low royalty rates for mining corporations.   
 
Even though coal hasn’t been economical for years, taxpayer subsidies have continued to flow to the polluting industry and this failed bill would have directed another $184 million to the industry. While relief money has flowed to CEOs and top executives, reports out of Kentucky coal country highlight how workers have been left in the lurch. 
 
McConnell’s Failed Pork Package For Coal and Mining Corporations Included: 
  • The Bill Tried To Create A Grant Program For Colleges To Develop “Critical Mineral” And Coal Curricula. “The Secretary and the Secretary of Labor shall jointly conduct a competitive grant program under which institutions of higher education may apply for and receive 4-year grants for startup costs for newly designated faculty positions in integrated critical mineral education, research, innovation, training, and workforce development programs 7 consistent with paragraph (2).” [S.178]  
  • And The Bill Tried To Set Aside $184 Million To Study How To Extract Rare Earth Elements From Coal... “The Secretary of Energy, acting through the Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy (referred to in this section as the ‘‘Secretary’’), shall carry out a program under which the Secretary shall develop advanced separation technologies for the extraction and recovery of rare earth elements and minerals from coal and coal byproducts. [...] There is authorized to be appropriated to the Secretary to carry out the program described in paragraph (1) $23,000,000 for each of fiscal years 2021 2 through 2028.” [S.178
    • ...A Field Of Study That The University Of Kentucky Already Has A $1M Federal Grant To Pursue. “Much work is ongoing to discover the highest commercial concentrations of REEs in specific coal beds and specific coal byproducts. The Department of Mining Engineering, Center for Applied Energy Research, and Kentucky Geological Survey, all at the University of Kentucky, are testing Kentucky- mined coals and coal byproducts for their REE content and concentration, and testing the potential for commercial extraction of REEs from coal and coal byproducts. Professor Rick Honaker of the Department of Mining Engineering at UK was awarded a $1 million research grant from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory to develop a mobile pilot plant for the recovery of REEs from coal.” [University of Kentucky
    • The University Of Kentucky Has The Largest Department Of Energy (DOE) Grant For Program On Extracting Rare Earth Materials From Coal By-Products. Current DOE Grant Projects for Rare Earth Recovery from Coal Byproducts. [DOE Rare Earth Recovery Award List]
  • The Senate Bill Tried To Allocate $450,000,000 For Critical Minerals.”There is authorized to be appropriated to carry out this section $50,000,000 for each of fiscal years 2021 through 2030.” [S.178
  • The Bill Would Have Required The Interior Secretary To Revisit The Critical Mineral List Every Three Years. “The Murkowski-Manchin bill that is incorporated into the package would require the Interior Secretary to designate a mineral as critical for national security purposes. The department would be required to review and update the list every three years.” [The Hill, 09/08/20]  
  • The Bill Would Have Mandated That The Interior Secretary Identify Ways To Speed Up Permitting, Exploration, And Development Of Minerals. “Not later than 1 year after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretaries shall submit to Congress a report that—(A) identifies additional measures (including regulatory and legislative proposals, as appropriate) that would increase the timeliness of permitting activities for the exploration and development of domestic critical mineral.” [S.178
  • The Bill Would Have Required Agencies To Compare US Mining Permitting Time To Unspecified “Other Countries.” “Beginning with the  first budget submission by the President under section 1105 of title 31, United States Code, after publication of the performance metric required under paragraph (4), and annually thereafter, the Secretaries shall submit to Congress a report that—[...] compares the United States to other countries in terms of permitting efficiency and any other criteria relevant to the globally competitive critical minerals industry.” [S.178
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