Economic diversification and development are vital to the future of Pennsylvania communities that have historically relied on coal for jobs. Residents of the 5th Congressional District will benefit if their congressman, Rep. Glenn Thompson, will fight to strengthen and pass the RECLAIM Act.
The existing Abandoned Mine Land Fund has $1 billion waiting to create jobs and long-term economic opportunities in coal mining areas through projects aimed at cleaning up abandoned mines that are no longer in operation. There are more than $440 million worth of abandoned mines in the 5th Congressional District.
Pennsylvania could receive more than $330 million over five years. These dollars will create business opportunities and put Pennsylvanians to work.
Thompson can represent his district by working in a bipartisan effort to distribute this money now, and in a manner consistent with the original bill that prioritized projects with public input determining what was most appropriate for their communities.
RECLAIM will cleanup abandoned mining sites, and it will also help to rebuild coal communities on a solid foundation, a foundation that includes job diversity and the resilience necessary to meet a changing economic landscape.
RECLAIM drew heavily from POWER+, a 2015 White House proposal to help coal communities by funding mine cleanup projects geared toward economic diversification and local self determination. RECLAIM was introduced in the House after a push by local communities and a bipartisan group of coal state representatives led by Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY).
The genesis of RECLAIM came from the communities impacted by coal mining, and the focus on local people determining what will work best in their communities is essential.
The 2017 version of RECLAIM takes away the priority of public input and a focus on economic diversity. The risk is that the bill’s original objectives have been undermined.
Coal communities in Congressman Thompson’s district need economic diversity and the opportunities that come with looking beyond coal mining. Healthy communities need job options that will enable workers to raise their families, jobs with good benefits, jobs that look to the future.
Cleaning up abandoned mining sites is essential, and is the right thing to do. It is a necessary action in many communities. But rebuilding coal communities so they can flourish in a changing economic landscape is also essential.
Thompson will be representing the communities in his district by standing up for the bill’s original promises and by resisting efforts to dilute the bill.
The RECLAIM Act is a bill by the people, for the people, and is a strong first step in rebuilding communities struggling to meet the conditions in a changing world.
Gary Thornbloom is a resident of Julian.