"This will continue our efforts in fulfilling the administration's commitment to significantly reduce the harmful environmental impacts of coal mining in Appalachia and nationwide," said OSM spokesman Christopher Holmes.
On the AML program, Obama proposed similar changes last year and in 2009, but they went nowhere. The idea was considered dead on arrival at Congress, where it was opposed by elected officials from Wyoming, the nation's largest coal producer.
Under the Obama proposal, states like Wyoming that have "certified" that they have reclaimed all of their abandoned coal mines would no longer continue to receive money from the AML program. Currently, those states receive large allotments -- up to $186 million annually -- of AML funding, which they use for other purposes.
The money for AML comes from coal production taxes, and the original AML law promises states that they would get back half of the money generated within their borders, regardless of whether it was needed for abandoned mine reclamation work.
Under the proposal, OSM would establish an advisory council to review and rank reclamation projects proposed by states and other parties, and recommend distribution of the funds to the highest priority sites.
The Obama proposal would likely benefit states like West Virginia and Pennsylvania, which continue to have large inventories of abandoned mines that need cleaned up, but don't produce nearly as much coal as Wyoming.
Eliminating the payments to certified AML states was recommended in December by the President's National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, which was co-chaired by Alan Simpson, a former GOP senator from Wyoming.
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.