- Associated Press - Thursday, April 6, 2017

CASPER, Wyo. (AP) - A report has determined that Wyoming is diverting too much of the federal money it receives for the reclamation of old coal mine sites to other uses.

The report released March 30 by the U.S. Interior Department’s inspector general says that between 2008 and 2012, Wyoming spent $134 million on coal reclamation projects versus $329 million on non-coal projects, the Casper Star-Tribune reported (https://bit.ly/2o7oUkz).

Wyoming officials maintain that the state has consistently followed federal rules on abandoned mine land spending.

Wyoming isn’t required to spend all the funding on reclamation but must give coal-related projects first priority.

It’s a deal that the state has with the federal government because Wyoming has reclaimed its most egregious coal sites.

Wyoming officials believe the state can spend its yearly abandoned mine land money on projects related to coal reclamation and on other projects affected by mineral development, such as roads.

The Interior Department report doesn’t agree.

“Towns like Rock Springs, WY, currently face significant subsidence issues due to historical coal mining,” the report states. “Reclaiming these sites will likely cost nearly $100 million; however, Wyoming is diverting AML grant funds to other projects instead of giving coal reclamation projects top priority.”

The report outlines 11 suggestions for federal regulators to increase oversight, such as developing a way to prioritize reclamation plans.

Keith Guille, spokesman for the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, pushed back on the report’s conclusions, saying coal-related reclamation is given top priority.

“We’ve spent a lot of money, time and effort dealing with coal, specifically with Sweetwater County and Rock Springs,” Guille told the newspaper.

To date, the DEQ has closed 2,300 mine openings, restored 127 miles of streams and reclaimed 28,000 acres of rangeland, he said.

He said the federal report doesn’t understand what Wyoming does or needs.


Information from: Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune, https://www.trib.com

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