Wednesday, December 15, 2010
CHEYENNE, Wyo. — The Department of the Interior said Wednesday that it is distributing more than $395 million to Wyoming, 24 other states, and three American Indian groups to clean up abandoned coal mines.
Wyoming, as the nation's No. 1 coal producer, gets more than $133 million in Abandoned Mine Land funding — the biggest single award.
The money was expected by Gov. Dave Freudenthal, who included it in his supplemental budget proposal.
Freudenthal proposed spending $50 million to construct a new Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics laboratory building at the University of Wyoming. Another $50 million would go to the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality for coal reclamation projects.
The other $33 million in AML funding would go toward UW School of Energy Resources operations and start-up costs for the High Plains Gasification-Advanced Technology Center, including $6.5 million to fund a six-year commitment to energy science graduate student stipends and fellowships.
Testifying before the Joint Appropriations Committee on Tuesday, Freudenthal said he wanted to put the money toward one-time expenditures in case AML funding dries up in the future.
Much of the funding announced Wednesday is going to Eastern coal-producing states.
The recipients can apply to the Interior Department's Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement for funding for specific projects.
Part of the money — $150 million — comes from fees based on U.S. coal production. The remaining $245 million comes from the U.S. Treasury.
Since 1977, the program has provided more than $7 billion to clean up more than 285,000 acres.
“These grants have significant economic and environmental impacts in coalfield communities across the country,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a media release.
However, Freudenthal warned lawmakers not to become dependent on AML money, especially at a time when efforts are under way to slash federal spending to reduce the national debt.
If every other state that receives AML money is willing to give it up, Freudenthal said he'd support Wyoming giving up the funding as well.
“If you really got to the point where every state was to say, 'All right, we'll give up some of our sacred cows on funding,' I'm quite prepared to see us give up a number of ours,” he said. “If everybody holds hands and jumps off the cliff together, and deal with some significant budget cuts at the federal level — and frankly, some enhanced revenues — then it makes sense.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report. Contact Jeremy Pelzer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 307-632-1244.