Hearings and Business Meetings

SD-366 Energy Committee Hearing Room 10:00 AM

Evan Green

Mr.

Notes for Oral Testimony to Senate Energy Committee

Good Morning Mr. Chairman.  My name is Evan Green.  I am the Administrator of the Abandoned Mine Land Division of the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality.  I am here to testify on behalf of the State of Wyoming on the reauthorization of Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation fee.  I wish to thank Chairman Domenici and the members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee for inviting the State of Wyoming to present our views on this important issue.
I would first like to recognize the hard work by members of Congress, by the Office of Surface Mining, and by the AML states and Tribes in attempting to craft a reauthorization proposal that will be fair to all entities with an interest in the outcome of this deliberation.  My thanks also go to your individual staffs for their assistance in what is a long and tedious process reflecting the passion of all those who have a stake in the outcome of these deliberations.
As to the specific bills before you today, Wyoming supports the reauthorization concepts contained in Senate Bill S.1701 offered by Senator Thomas, yet we have serious concerns with several provisions of S.961 sponsored by Senator Rockefeller.

Wyoming’s Position

The interests of the nation’s most productive coal producing state with respect to S.1701 are:
• A prompt release of Wyoming=s share of the AML Trust Fund.  S.1701 provides for payout of these funds over a 5-year period and this schedule is acceptable.
• A fair share of future AML revenues returned to the State with the flexibility to use these funds to address the impacts of mineral development.  S.1701 meets this criterion.
• A reduced fee structure that lowers the tax burden on Wyoming coal producers.  S.1701 provides a phased fee reduction over the course of the program extension.
• The option allowing states to collect the reclamation fee.

 This being said, Wyoming also requests that some areas not addressed in S.1701 be brought forward. We fear that their exclusion would have a significant negative impact on the bill’s odds of passing.  Such issues include funding of the Combined Benefit Fund.
As to S.961, Wyoming cannot agree to provisions which do not address the State’s needs, which include:

• Wyoming's coal producers would pay almost $2 billion in reclamation fees over the term of the extension, but the state would continue to receive only 25-30% of collections we have received in the past.  Escalating construction costs, inflation, and a lack of interest on the fund depreciate the real value of Wyoming=s share.
• SMCRA promised 50% return and that promise must be honored.
• Wyoming's trust fund of $450 million would not be returned. 
• There is no commitment that Wyoming, or other states, will receive trust fund balances in future years.
• Wyoming would remain subject to the limitations on project prioritization currently in SMCRA.  As a certified state, Wyoming should have the authority to decide how to spend the funds generated by our coal producers.

Wyoming’s Track Record

Wyoming’s record of administering its AML program demonstrates our commitment to the program and its application.
• Wyoming coal producers have paid $2 billion dollars in fees and have received only 25% in return.
• Wyoming has used AML funds efficiently.  We maintain a 95% obligation rate.  Administrative costs are less than 5%.
• Wyoming has closed 1,300 hazardous mine openings, reclaimed over 30,000 acres of disturbed land, and abated or controlled 22 mine fires.  Thirty five miles of hazardous highwalls have been reduced to safer slopes, and over $115 million have been spent to mitigate and prevent coal mine subsidence.

Work Remaining
• Wyoming’s continuing inventory of historic mining districts has identified 393 additional coal sites and over 650 non-coal sites.  Costs of mine fire control and responses to ongoing subsidence and emergency situations are not included in this total and are expected to continue.
• Mining activities have impacted every one of Wyoming’s 23 counties.  Many communities continue to suffer the direct effects mineral extraction and the boom and bust nature of the State’s economy.  Infrastructure projects such as public water systems, hospitals, health clinics and other projects addressing public health and safety will continue to be a priority.

All of the States and Tribes have continuing reclamation needs under the legitimate and original purposes of SMCRA.  Wyoming believes that the reauthorization discussion should honor the Government’s commitment to return the States and Tribes share of the AML trust fund, and that all participating States and Tribes should be fairly treated by reauthorization legislation.
 I refer you to the written testimony submitted by Wyoming, and thank you for the opportunity to present this information for your consideration.  I would be honored to answer any questions the Committee may have.