PIKEVILLE, Ky. - On Monday, Pike County Judge/Executive Wayne T. Rutherford communicated an “urgent plea” for massive Federal action to U.S. Congressman Hal Rogers, who represents Kentucky’s Fifth Congressional District and is chairman of the U.S. House Appropriations Committee. The letter was also sent to President Barack Obama and members of the U.S. Congress in Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia.
Rutherford wrote to Rogers, “We need your leadership now more than ever to once and for all cut through the bureaucratic walls and governmental red tape to access the massive Abandoned Mine Lands (AML) Trust funds that could mean all the difference to those of us here in Central Appalachia. It is my understanding nearly $2.5 billion has accumulated since 1977. These monies, gained from a tax on coal mined right here in our native mountains, belong to the people and can be used to help a region that desperately needs it.”
“In essence, the 35 cents per ton for surface-mined coal and 10 cents per ton for deep-mined coal that have gone into this $2.5 billion pot over the last 36 years is the equivalent of a federal coal severance tax. Like our state coal severance tax, this money should come back to the people and places from which it was taken—not go into a general fund to prop up the federal deficit or for any other purposes. The bulk of these funds should be returned to the counties of origin based on tonnage. These funds should have rigid guidelines attached to them allowing the money to be spent only in the eligible coal counties and exclusively for infrastructure and economic development.”
“If they are going to hammer down on our coal industry and our coal jobs, for goodness sakes, don’t recklessly devastate our economy and drive us into poverty without offering any real solutions or assistance to help our region. It is not responsible public policy to implement radical measures to close down coal mines and coal-fired power plants and then simply just walk away,” Rutherford wrote. Rutherford communicated to Congressman Rogers, “I am proud to be a fighter for coal, as I know you are, too, and we will continue to fight the War on Coal together. But the time for hand-wringing, slogans and bemoaning is over. Now—and with haste— we must act and invest if we are to reclaim Central Appalachia’s future for our people. The leadership here has the passion and commitment to save our economy and our tomorrows. We need understanding, cooperation and a viable plan in order to succeed.”