The Keystone Research Center (KRC) today saluted draft guidance issued earlier this week by the Biden Administration that will govern states’ distribution of funds for Abandoned Mine Land (AML) reclamation. KRC executive director and economist Stephen Herzenberg said, ‘this guidance is more important to Pennsylvania than any other state for the simple reason that we will get the biggest share of the big increase in funding for AML reclamation in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). Pennsylvania will receive a third of the funding (34%), $3.7 billion over 15 years. This big influx for vital work to reclaim lands, create jobs, and revitalize coal communities must be spent well. The Biden Administration’s draft guidance to states ensures effective use of these funds more likely because it targets disadvantaged coal communities and includes precisely the strong labor standards (see p. 4) for which KRC and our allies in the four-state ReImagine Appalachia campaign have been calling.’
More specifically, the guidance directs states to place priority on AML projects that qualify for Justice40, a Biden Administration initiative that aims to deliver 40% of the overall benefits of certain federal investments to disadvantaged communities. And in addition to highlighting the statutory requirement that AML reclamation apply federal (Davis-Bacon) prevailing wage standards, the guidance encourages states to:
- aggregate AML reclamation into bigger contracts to attract larger, more experienced contractors;
- incorporate local hire provisions and links to pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship so that AML work can be a path to unionized careers for a diverse workforce; and
- use project labor agreements on projects of $1 billion.
This guidance should lead to this funding creating more good union jobs and to a higher quality of reclamation work that restores the natural beauty of coal county Pennsylvania and lays a foundation for economic renewal.
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