E&E News Explains

The Abandoned Mine Land formula

Dylan Brown: Hi I'm Dylan Brown and I cover mining here for E&E News and this is E&E News explains, the Abandoned Mine Land formula.

Coal has been mined in the United States since before the Revolutionary War. But cleaning up all those old mines didn't really start until 1977 when Congress passed the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act, or SMCRA.

Now SMCRA did two things:

It made coal companies responsible for their own mines after 1977. And it required the industry to pay a cleanup fee for mines from before 1977.

Now the fee is part of the Abandoned Mine Land, or AML, program, which generally works like this:

Coal companies pay a fixed amount on every ton they produce, depending on the type of mine.

How much they each get is the tricky part.

The fees are separated into three pots. First is the "state and tribal share." Everybody automatically gets back 50% of the fees from within their borders.

The second pot is the "historic coal fund." Thirty percent of fees are distributed based on how much of the nation's coal a particular state or tribe mined prior to the passage of SMCRA. The idea is to direct more money to states that have the most to cleanup from before 1977.

The third pot and last 20% is Minimum Program Make Up. Essentially, this guarantees everybody, even states where coal mining has disappeared, at least $3 million. Or however much it takes to finish reclamation.

Once reclamation is complete, a state or tribe becomes "certified."

Coal companies keep paying the fee, but none of that money comes back to the certified states and tribes.

And they don't think that's fair. So Congress found a compromise.

The certified group gets their state and tribal share -- 50% of their fees -- but the money comes out of the General Treasury, not the AML fund. That leftover cash instead goes to the uncertified states, distributed based on the historic coal fund calculation.

But that's it. That's the Abandoned Mine Land formula.

The question is for how long? The AML fee expires in 2021.

According to OSMRE, there is $10 billion in reclamation left to do, but coal companies are tired of paying the fee. It will be up to Congress to renew it.

Want to know more? Check us out at eenews.net. And as always thanks for watching

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