Part 1 – 1/30/2005
Too Many Mines, Too Little Money
State Program Trying To Make Up for Lost Federal Contributions
Part 2 – 1/31/2005
Danger Lurks in Mines
The federal mine cleanup program, fueled by taxes on coal companies, is set to expire in June 2005. There are two plans to revamp the fund. U.S. Representatives, Barbara Cubin, R-Wyoming, and Nick J. Rahall, D-West Virginia, are co-sponsoring one. U.S. Senator, Arlen Specter, R-Philadelphia, is the lead sponsor of the other.
Wyoming and other coal-producing states would continue receiving payments from the Abandoned Mine Land fund. The money could be used for non-coal projects. States would also be reimbursed the money they are owed. In addition, the proposal:
Gives more financial resources to states with historical abandoned mine problems.
Continues to give states at least a 50-percent return on the tax its coal producers contribute to the federal mine cleanup fund.
Extends the coal tax for 15 years but reduces it so the amount collected reflects the amount spent annually under the Abandoned Mine Land fund.
Ensures the United Mine Worker’s Combined Benefit Fund will not go into a deficit.
Reauthorizes the program for 10 years.
States with historical abandoned mine problems, like Pennsylvania, would get more money over the next 15 years. All states would get back money they are owed, but states that no longer have abandoned mine problems would not get future mine cleanup dollars even if they contribute to the fund. The tax placed on coal companies to fund abandoned mine cleanup would expire in 2018 when it is projected that all problems will be resolved. In addition, the proposal:
Gives any state or Indian tribe with high-priority abandoned mine sites at least $2 million a year.
Extends the tax placed on coal companies through 2018 but reduces it by 15 percent for the first five years, 20 percent over the next five years and then 25 percent after that.
Puts future program money into a single account and distribute grants to non-certified states or Indian tribes based upon historic production.
Provides additional funding for 17,000 unassigned beneficiaries of the United Mine Worker’s Fund and removes the $70 million cap on interest to be transferred annually to them.
©Scranton Times Tribune 2005