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$1B RECLAIM Act gains momentum, is reintroduced in U.S. Congress at coal communities’ urging

After years of groundwork by coal-impacted communities and a positive hearing in the House Natural Resources Committee in March, the bipartisan RECLAIM Act was reintroduced in the U.S. House Tuesday.


The RECLAIM Act would invest $1 billion in projects that clean up abandoned coal mines and waters polluted by them, and catalyzes community development projects on reclaimed sites.

The re-introduction of the bill in the 116th Congress, H.R. 2156, sponsored by Democratic Representative Matt Cartwright of Pennsylvania, Republican Representative Harold “Hal” Rogers of Kentucky, and others, underlines the continued bipartisan support for this legislation.

Support for the bill is rooted in communities struggling with abandoned mines and the decline of coal jobs, including in east Kentucky where people have been calling for the initiative since 2013.

“Being from a family whose men have worked in the coal industry for generations, this bill is of great importance to me,” said Sarah Bowling, who grew up in Pike County and has been a longtime proponent of RECLAIM. “It’s a way to stimulate the economies of the communities hit hardest by the decline of the coal industry. These communities need help now. RECLAIM will provide it by putting miners back to work reclaiming the land and creating new businesses.”

The Act, if passed, would provide an immediate economic boost by employing thousands of people in reclamation jobs across the country. Many people in Central Appalachia possess the earth-moving skills necessary for this type of reclamation work, including laid-off coal miners and others.

“Supporters in coal-impacted communities and across the country have provided 10,000 petition signatures, thousands of calls, hundreds of postcards, and local governments have passed more than 50 resolutions, all urging Congress to pass this bill,” said Wes Addington, Executive Director of Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center.

The RECLAIM Act could be a first step toward a more diverse, sustainable economy in the mountains.

ACLC’s Senior Coordinator of Policy and Community Engagement Eric Dixon testifies at  a House Energy and Mineral Resources subcommittee hearing in March (provided photo).

“If you’ve got more work going on, then you’ve got to have more workers to do them,” Fred Jackson, the president of a reclamation contractor based in Clay County said. “If you’ve got 20 million extra dollars coming into the state, the reclamation contractors are here and will be needing extra workers for those cleanup jobs. People here value their homes as everyone else does. Home is home. Abandoned mines are affecting people’s livelihoods like people’s houses or people’s access to the community. It would be a good thing to get more money stirring in this area and do the reclamation that needs to be done.”

RECLAIM’s re-introduction follows a March 28 House Energy and Mineral Resources subcommittee hearing at which ACLC’s Senior Coordinator of Policy and Community Engagement Eric Dixon and two other witnesses testified in support of RECLAIM.

ACLC joins more than 20 local and national organizations across the country who are endorsing the bill.

Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center

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