Reprinted with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. Not for republication by Wyoming media.
Uncertified states like Pennsylvania are in dire need of funding to clean up pollution from abandoned coal mine sites that predate key laws like the Clean Water Act. Lawmakers from certified tribes and states like Wyoming shudder at the thought of money collected from coal companies in their jurisdictions going elsewhere.
“Given the complexity of this seemingly ‘simple’ amendment to SMCRA, our analysis of the impact continues,” Conrad wrote. “There are a host of procedural and logistical questions concerning its interconnectedness with other provisions of the Act which will likely require rule-making by the Office of Surface Mining to fully sort out.”
Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), chairman of the powerful Finance Committee, who represents a state that benefits from the current system, defended not blocking the offset.
“While Senator Baucus did not raise this provision in the [transportation] conference,” the senator’s office said in a statement, “he did not oppose it, because it cracks down on wasteful spending while protecting states like Montana who are using their [abandoned mine lands] money for [non-coal] mine cleanup.”
However, it appears that many lawmakers and staff did not fully understand the arcane details of the funding distribution formula.
“This is what happens when the legislation is done by a few in the middle of the night,” members of the Wyoming delegation said in a joint statement yesterday. “We hope this information will help us convince our colleagues in both the Senate and House to fix this.”
Lawmakers were tight-lipped when asked about plans to force Congress to undo the offset. “We’re working on it,” said Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), a Finance Committee member. Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, the fourth-ranking Senate Republican, said, “Yes, there’s a plan.”