Through legislation passed in 2006 to extend the program, states like Wyoming began receiving an amount equal to 50 percent of their AML taxes, but from general federal monies, instead of the AML fund. Their AML taxes were then redistributed to other, non-certified states like West Virginia and Pennsylvania.
For several years, the Obama administration has tried to reform the AML program by stopping general tax dollar payments to Wyoming and other certified states. Those proposals have gone nowhere.
Then, in July, a measure was quietly slipped into the transportation bill -- apparently no lawmaker has admitted to being its author -- that would limit general tax dollar payments to certified states to $15 million a year.
But because of the complicated formula used to dole out AML money to non-certified states like West Virginia, the bill would also have had the effect of reducing payments to those non-certified states.
The Interstate Mining Compact Commission, a coalition of coal states, has warned lawmakers that the measure would slash AML payments and set back efforts to reclaim abandoned mines.
In West Virginia, the legislation could cost the state Department of Environmental Protection about $10 million a year out of its nearly $67 million annual AML budget.
But the biggest hit from the transportation bill would have been to Wyoming, the only certified state with expected annual AML payments greater than $15 million. The state stands to lose about $700 million over the next few years.
The new budget bill language would allow non-certified states like West Virginia to continue receiving annual payments that had previously gone to certified states like Wyoming. But it allows to stand the transportation bill language that caps payments to certified states at $15 million a year.
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.