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Western Kentucky Leaders Advocate For Fair Share Of Abandoned Mine Land Funding

A federal government program designed to provide funds for the restoration of Abandoned Mine Lands is not equally distributing money across Kentucky, some western Kentucky leaders argue.

The Abandoned Mine Land (AML) program was created by the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977. The law established the program to repair damage caused by mining operations and restore the environment in impacted areas.

Despite a historically heavy coal mining presence in western Kentucky counties, the state only sought proposals from eastern Kentucky counties for the $25 million in AML funds set aside for the state in 2020.

The program has funded projects like outdoor recreation facilities, healthcare clinics and wildlife sanctuaries, according to a release from Congressman Hal Rogers, a Republican who represents eastern Kentucky.

But western Kentucky counties weren’t eligible to apply for the initiative and have historically received less AML funds than their counterparts in the eastern part of the state.

Jack Whitfield, the judge-executive for Hopkins County in the state’s western coal fields, said county leaders in the region are working to notify state leaders of the funding disparities between the eastern and western Kentucky coal producers..

“If the judges here in west Kentucky have anything to do about it, then we’ll start getting some of it [AML funding],” Whitfield said. “I think we’re raising awareness with the state, so at some point they’re gonna have to let us be involved in that.”

Whifield said he is hoping for a share of the funding proportional to the percentage of AML sites in western Kentucky. For example, he said, if western Kentucky holds 40% of the commonwealth abandoned mines, it should receive 40% of the AML funds.

“Just that we get due consideration for projects that should qualify under the overall parts of the Abandoned Mine Lands funding,” he said. “We don’t want to be greedy, but we want to be fair.”

Dalton York is a Morning Edition host and reporter for WKYU in Bowling Green. He is a graduate of Murray State University, where he majored in History with a minor in Nonprofit Leadership Studies. While attending Murray State, he worked as a student reporter at WKMS. A native of Marshall County, he is a proud product of his tight-knit community.
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