A bipartisan group of U.S. senators introduced legislation this week that would restore the money owed to coal producing states from the Abandoned Mine Land (AML) Trust Fund. In June, the House and Senate passed a two-year transportation bill which included a provision that raided trust funds used for reclaiming abandoned mine lands.

The legislation was  introduced by senators Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va), and Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va). It is identical to legislation that was introduced in the House by Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) and Nick Rahall (D-W.Va).

The money in the AML Trust Fund comes from an agreement between coal producing states and the federal government.  Coal is taxed on a per-ton basis and that money is set aside and distributed annually to coal producing states. Examples of these states and how much they could lose as a result of the transportation bill are Wyoming ($702 million), Pennsylvania, ($178 million), West Virginia ($102 million), Illinois ($55 million), Kentucky ($54 million), Ohio ($34 million), Indiana ($18 million), Virginia ($16 million) and Alabama ($15 million).  At least 13 other states will also be affected by a loss of nearly $50 million.

In 2011, Wyoming paid into the AML fund more than every other state combined.  Senator Enzi says Trust funds set aside money for a specific reason and should not be raided to cover the costs of unrelated programs. Senator Barrasso said  the bill  will ensure Congress honors its promises and returns this funding to the affected coal-producing communities and states across the country.”