The amount of funding available to reclaim and re-purpose abandoned coal lands decreased nationally by more than $120 million over the past year, and fewer AML funds will be available in Kentucky.

Last week, the U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt issued a press release announcing that more than $170 million will be available in conservation funding nationally to states and tribes seeking to reclaim and re-purpose abandoned mine lands, with $11.3 million designated specifically for Kentucky.

The amount of AML funds available nationally dropped by more than $120.3 million over the past year and the amount of AML funds available for reclamation in Kentucky also decreased by nearly $7 million.

In March 2019, Bernhardt, then serving as Acting Secretary of the Interior, issued a press release announcing the release of $291.2 million in AML funds available for reclamation nationally, designating nearly $18.3 million specifically for Kentucky.

Last year’s press release from the department said $120 million of the total awarded was the final payment from a “phase-in period” for states and tribes to receive “certified in lieu funds” that had been withheld between 2009 and 2011.

In Feb. 2018, the national AML grant award was greater than the amount awarded in 2019 and this year: $300.7 million, and the press release with that announcement also mentioned that $120 million that had been paid after being withheld. That year, Kentucky received more than $19 million in AML reclamation funds.

In 2017, the award nationally was $181 million, and Kentucky’s share was about $12.6 million. That press release said Kentucky experienced a reduction of around $8.7 million in AML reclamation funds between 2013 and 2017.

AML grants are funded, in part, by a fee that’s based on the amount of coal produced in the U.S.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration issued its annual report about coal production in the U.S. in October. 2019.

Coal mined in Kentucky totaled more than 104.5 million tons in 2010. In 2018, the total mined was about 39.8 million tons.

U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell and U.S. Rep. Harold “Hal” Rogers, as well as other congressional leaders, praised the allotment of funding last week.

“Kentucky holds great potential for the future, and I’m grateful Secretary Bernhardt and the Interior Department continue investing in our Commonwealth,” McConnell said. “As a strong supporter of the AML grants program, I look forward to its many benefits for Kentucky’s environment and the new opportunities it can present for families in the Bluegrass State. I’ll continue partnering with the Trump administration as senate majority leader to deliver critical federal resources for Kentucky communities.”

Rogers reported the grants will help the coalfields come “full circle.”

“These grants help bring our coalfields full circle by providing funds to rehabilitate the same land that generated affordable power and infused our economy through coal mining for generations,” Rogers said. “Coupled with the AML Pilot Grants since 2016, we are covering more ground faster in Kentucky than ever before. It is vital that we revive our environment and our economy in coal country for future generations.”

The Office of Surfacing Mining and Reclamation and Enforcement reports online that there are more than $1 billion in costs associated with abandoned mine land issues designated as high priority in Kentucky. Of that, about $600,000 million in projects are complete, $69.5 million are funded and about $357 million are not funded.

There are 78 records online for ares in which abandoned mine lands are causing problems in Floyd County.

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