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Cleaning Up Dangerous Abandoned Coal Mines
Since it was created by Congress in 1977, the Abandoned Mine Land (AML) program has reclaimed thousands of abandoned coal mine sites and made the lives of millions of Americans living in the coalfields safer. But the job is not finished. There are an estimated 3.5 million Americans who live less than a mile from a dangerous, high-priority abandoned mine site. This year, as the fee collected from coal companies to pay for the nationwide cleanup expires, the Administration has proposed legislation that would reauthorize the fee in a way that balances the interests of all coal states, but focuses more funding on accelerating the cleanup of dangerous abandoned coal mines. This would make it possible to finish this clean up in 25 years instead of the 60 to 100 years it would take under the current system in states like West Virginia and Pennsylvania. It would also make it possible to remove an average of 142,000 Americans from risk every year. To support this legislation, the President requested a record increase of $53 million for the AML program in his FY 2005 budget proposal-the largest funding increase since states established their AML programs almost 20 years ago.
The Administration's proposed legislation will finish the job sooner, and because it directs more money to where the problems are, it will save $3.2 billion more than if the current system were continued.
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