Cubin Receives Assurances From OSM Director That AML Law Will Be Honored
U.S. Representative Barbara Cubin and Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee Nick Rahall (D-WV) met with the Office of Surface Mining (OSM) Director Brent Wahlquist yesterday to ensure that the Abandoned Mine Land (AML) funds owed to Wyoming be paid with no strings attached as intended by Congress.
Cubin requested the meeting with Director Wahlquist and Chairman Rahall. In that meeting Cubin addressed recent troubling reports that the administration was attempting to "interpret" the AML legislation signed into law last year in a way that allows the OSM to place guidelines or restrictions on how AML funds are repaid to the state.
During today's meeting Director Wahlquist assured Cubin that the OSM has no intention of placing requirements on Wyoming's legislature as to how the state's repaid AML dollars can be spent. Wahlquist also told Cubin that he fully expects the OSM to make their first payment to Wyoming this coming December.
"I am pleased that Director Wahlquist plans to uphold the OSM's obligations as clearly directed by law," Cubin said. "I will continue, however, to keep a close eye on this issue until Wyoming's check is in the hands of our state legislature."
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 deserted coal mines that were abandoned before reclamation laws existed. Half of the total fees collected were to go to the federal government to be used for the clean-up of abandoned mines nationwide and the other half were to be returned to the states from which the coal was produced to clean up abandoned mines within their borders. Unfortunately, the federal government never lived up to its financial responsibility and leading coal producing states like Wyoming were only paid a small portion of what they were owed.
To remedy this problem Cubin authored original legislation for AML Reform along with Chairman Rahall in bipartisan negotiations that stretched across four sessions of Congress. Last December Congress passed and the President signed into law comprehensive legislation which included Cubin's AML provisions. This new law will deliver both the $550 million debt owed to Wyoming by the federal government and roughly an additional $1.6 billion in future payments over the next 15 years.
"Representative Cubin and I teamed up several years ago in a historic reconciliation of long-standing differences between the East and the West and fashioned the legislation to reauthorize the Abandoned Mine Reclamation Program which was the genesis of what became law late last year," Chairman Rahall said. "There is no question in our minds that this law is to make Wyoming whole, in terms of fully paying it owed reclamation monies, and for those funds to be spent in a manner by which the State of Wyoming sees best within the framework of the law."