Wyoming to lose $700M after AML cuts

WYOMING officials are reeling from the news their state is to have its Abandoned Mine Lands payments slashed to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars.
Wyoming to lose $700M after AML cuts Wyoming to lose $700M after AML cuts Wyoming to lose $700M after AML cuts Wyoming to lose $700M after AML cuts Wyoming to lose $700M after AML cuts

Wyoming Governor Matt Mead

Dani Malone

State officials have slammed a vote upheld last week in both houses of Congress which cut the federal government’s payments as part of a plan to pay for transportation costs and lower student loan rates.

The approval means no state will receive more than $15 million a year of funding.

While no other state receives more than that figure, the move has met with fierce opposition in Wyoming, where the largest coal-producing state received $150 million of state funding this year.

Speaking to the Casper Star-Tribune in Wyoming, Governor Matt Mead reportedly said coal producers had paid around $2.9 billion into the federal fund over the years and expected to receive about $1.9 billion back.

“I feel like we’ve had the rug pulled out from under us,” he said.

Spokesperson for Mead Renny Mackay said the loss to Wyoming over the next 10 years was likely to tip $720 million and the congressional action would cost the state the last two payments of $82.7 million it was set to receive in 2013 and 2014.

Mackay also said the state would lose $65 million a year for the next 10 years in coal production taxes.

The Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act was passed by Congress in 1977 and funded the AML program by imposing a 35c tax on each ton of coal produced.

MacKay said Wyoming spent 82% of all money the state had received through the program on mine land reclamation. Despite this, Wyoming has attracted criticism for not using all program money for mining clean-up.

Other mining states criticised Wyoming this year after the state legislature approved $10 million of AML funds to renovate the University of Wyoming basketball arena.

Mead later substituted $10 million in state funds for the UW project and used the federal dollars on highway construction.

In addition, Wyoming used AML dollars for other highway projects and to support the UW School of Energy Resources.

President Barack Obama has long pushed for the culling of AML payments to the likes of Wyoming, as it receives more from the program than it needs for cleaning up abandoned coal mines.

The deficit reduction committee, co-chaired by former senator Alan Simpson of Wyoming, also identified such payments as a good place to cut federal spending.

Meanwhile, Mead said Wyoming had used AML funding to pay for mine reclamation work and air-quality monitoring.

“At the same time, there’s so much pressure on the coal industry because of concerns on the environment, they’ve pulled back on this program which we were using for a number of things: reclamation efforts, our air quality monitoring efforts,” he said.

“And so, it’s a terrible message.”

Mead said the federal government had sent a bad signal by reneging on its agreement with Wyoming, noting the government was asking states to engage in programs such as the Affordable Care Act.

Members of Wyoming’s congressional delegation vowed to remain fully committed to trying to restore the state’s funding.

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