RECLAIM Act Would Reinvigorate Coal-Dependent Communities

America would look very different today if it weren’t for the hard work and sacrifices of those in coal country. For more than a century the nation was powered by coal, much of which was mined by those in Appalachia. The coal industry supported communities in the area, providing stable employment for generations. During that time America was propelled forward by innovation, becoming a world technological leader.

Now, because of our technological advancements, we are powering more and more of the nation with cleaner, cheaper energy. This shift is impacting the coal communities that kept the lights on for so long. We owe it to those communities to give them a hand up in these tough times. The good news is we already know one key way we can help: Congress must pass H.R. 1731—The RECLAIM Act.

The RECLAIM Act would commit $1 billion from an existing abandoned mine fund to projects that clean up dangerous old abandoned coal mines and spur economic development and diversification, while also prioritizing public input and community participation on which projects are chosen and how they are run.

RECLAIM is truly a win-win. The bill supports the reclamation of abandoned mines, freeing up that land for new development opportunities in agriculture, recreational tourism, retail, and even renewable energy production. Not only will coal communities get their land back, but revitalization efforts have been proven to provide new economic opportunities and create jobs. RECLAIM would bring new industries to areas that are seeking to diversify and strengthen their economies. It would help protect these communities from the impact of a changing economic landscape while reclaiming their natural landscape.

RECLAIM isn’t just about cleaning up abandoned mines; it’s about helping to rebuild the communities that powered America. The benefits of the clean energy transition are wide-reaching—we can appreciate the cleaner air and cleaner waters, the good jobs in new industries—but that transition has not been a smooth one everywhere. Coal-dependent communities are struggling like never before—with high unemployment, alcohol and opioid addiction, and the disappearance of tax resources just to provide basic services to residents. When jobs and industries leave, so does the tax revenue needed to support things like schools and infrastructure maintenance. These communities are looking for a path to a brighter future, and RECLAIM will help light the way.

Right now, Congress has the opportunity to make a real difference in coal communities. Congress should pass the House version of RECLAIM with the federal FY18 spending bill currently under negotiation. This should be a priority for every member of Congress, not just those representing coal-dependent communities, because every American owes a debt of gratitude to coal communities.