U.S. Representative Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo) voted against the two-year Transportation Conference Committee Agreement, after it was discovered that U.S. Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) robbed Abandoned Mine Land (AML) funds guaranteed to the state of Wyoming to cover the legislation's hefty price tag on items unrelated to highway spending. Although many states, including Montana, tribes, and union miners from the east all receive AML funds, Wyoming was the only one targeted.
The AML program is funded by a tax on every ton of coal produced. Similar to oil and gas royalties, the AML law provides that half the tax be returned to the states, and the other half given to the federal government to clean up abandoned mines in states with the largest reclamation needs. The half set aside for Wyoming and other states and tribes was never paid until a 2006 law forced the federal government to meet its commitments, and the federal government has been fulfilling its backlog of payments to Wyoming since.
Sen. Baucus was part of the careful negotiations that established the AML program in 2006, but without consulting the Wyoming delegation, drafted a provision that steals all but a fraction of Wyoming's AML funds, leaving every other AML recipient untouched. U.S. Representative Cynthia Lummis released the following statement in response to Sen. Baucus' actions:
"I was looking forward to supporting a transportation infrastructure bill that will put people to work in Wyoming and across the country. Senator Baucus robbed me of that chance, and worse, robbed Wyoming of hundreds of millions of dollars. The federal government has owed Wyoming this money for 30 years, and the law was finally making them pay. The Senator from Montana single-handedly carved out Wyoming for financial punishment, and did not consult with the Wyoming delegation in the process. I will not rest until Wyoming's money -- rightfully earned and lawfully owed -- is returned to us."