OSM: 10 pct. of Abandoned Mine Lands funds held for sequester - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

OSM: 10 pct. of Abandoned Mine Lands funds held for sequester

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Abandoned Mine Land funds distributed to coal-producing states and tribes for the remediation of legacy environmental problems are a little low this year.

"Ten percent of the funds are being held back pending the sequester," wrote the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement in the media release announcing the disbursements. The sequester is the across-the-board budget cuts federal lawmakers created to force themselves to draw up a better budget and now find themselves facing on March 1.

Abandoned Mine Land grants to states and tribes are funded in part by a per-ton reclamation fee levied on all coal produced in the United States, with additional funding from the U.S. Treasury.

States and tribes receive their allocations according to a congressionally mandated formula established by the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977.

West Virginia would have received $62.8 million for fiscal 2013, but instead is receiving $56.5 million. The total distributed for fiscal 2013 is $305 million of the full $339 million.

"The hold back of ten percent in anticipation of the sequester will have impacts on communities across the nation, the American people, and the environment," the media release reads.

The reduction in AML funding means that about 50 abandoned mine land projects will not be reclaimed, according to OSM, affecting an estimated 22,500 who will continue to be exposed to open mine shafts and portals, mine fires, dangerous highwalls, landslides and mine subsidence.

More than 1,800 acres of degraded mine lands will not be cleaned up, OSM said, and more than $4.3 million will not be set aside for cleanup of mine-related water pollution.

"There are economic impacts as well; the reduction in funds means a reduction in contracts and jobs in the local community," the release continued.

Top state Pennsylvania is receiving $59 million of $65 million; number three Kentucky gets $40 million of $45 million.

West Virginia received $66.5 million in fiscal 2012, when the total nationwide reached a record $485 million.

Lawmakers would have to act swiftly at this point to prevent the budget sequester from taking place on March 1.